What Are Rights?

Freechild Institute Youth Rights Toolkit

There are certain things that everyone should be able to experience, do and have in their lives. They should be able to do those things simply because they are human beings. Nobody should have to earn those things. Those things are called rights, and everyone has rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first international statement to use the term “human rights.” It is short, and worth reading the whole document. There are many rights included in the document. Among the 50 rights included in the document, some include:

  • The right to equality
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • The right to life, liberty, and personal security
  • Freedom from slavery
  • Freedom from torture and degrading treatment
  • Right to recognition as a person before the law

The European Convention on Human Rights was the first international document that gives people the right to take the government to court based on human rights abuses. In the United States, rights are named and protected by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The legal system was designed to protect, enforce and uphold those rights. Most nations have legal mechanisms like a Bill of Rights that make rights available for certain people.

Everyone has rights, but they are not the same. Instead, they are different given the circumstances and conditions a person faces. For instance, children have different rights from adults because they are children. Youth have different rights, too. Prisons, customers, citizens and noncitizens, and lots of other people have different rights. They are different everywhere.

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