Human rights are almost a form of religion in today’s world. They are the great ethical yardstick that is used to measure a government’s treatment of its people. A broad consensus has emerged in the twentieth century on rhetoric that frames judgment of nations against an international moral code prescribing certain benefits and treatment for all humans simply because they are human. Within many nations political debates rage over the denial or abuse of human rights.
Even in prosperous, enigmatic countries like Canada much public discourse is phrased in the rhetoric of rights. Legal documents to protect human rights have proliferated in Canada, culminating in the 1982 entrenchment of the Charter of Rights in the Constitution. Especially since the advent of the Charter, many Canadians have claimed that particular benefits they desire are a matter of human rights and must be provided. Indeed, the claim that the desired benefit is a human right is often meant to undercut any opposition as unprincipled or even immoral.
Lost in much of the discussion is any Justification for the high moral grounded occupied by human rights. Most political activists and commentators are content Just to look at the United Nations’ ever-growing body of human rights agreements as proof that these rights exist universally and therefore have to be respected by everyone. Domestic human rights legislation represents the local implementation of internationally-recognized rights that are universal and inalienable. Unfortunately, human rights are far more complicated phenomena than that.
Any inquiry into the origin, nature, and content of human rights reveals tremendous conceptual hurdles that need to be overcome before one can accept their pre-eminent authority. Indeed, many argue that the problems encountered in this analysis demonstrate that human “rights” are a misnomer, and that the rhetoric of human rights is really a description of ideals – and a controversial set of ideals at that. II. He nature of human rights is complicated even beyond the controversy over their source or who may hold them.
A critical debate continues over what is meant by human rights. The universality and inalienability off human right depends too large extent on the character of the ‘right’ involved. It is necessary first of all to distinguish twine the adjectival use tot the word right’, which meaner g or proper, trot the substantive ‘a right’, which is a special, possible benefit. Not everything which is right (good) is a right, although many people mistakenly inflate the concept of a right by asserting benefits they believe are ‘right’ to be ‘rights’.
This confusion has become evident in the assertion of what are known as ‘second-generation human rights’ – such as the right to economic development and prosperity – and ‘third generation human rights’ – which cover the rights to world peace and a clean environment. While some human rights advocates accept the inclusion of these benefits as rights, others argue that prosperity and peace are ‘right’ but not substantive rights. Even with the substantive term ‘a right’, however, there are several different meanings.
In 1919, Wesley Hoofed laid down a useful set of four distinctive connotations that can be given to the phrase “A has a right to X”. ( Perhaps the most common meaning given to this phrase conveys the notion of a claim-right. It is a claim that A has against a correlative duty of another, B; A has a right to X, and B as a duty to let A have or do X. The duty B has may be positive, in the sense that action is required on Bi’s part to allow A to enjoy X; if A has a right to health care, B has a duty to provide it.
There may also be a negative duty, in the sense of B having to refrain from interfering in Ass possession of benefit X; if A has a right to privacy, B must refrain from prying in Ass affairs. It is important to note that the duty may be owed by a particular person or official, or the duty may generally lie in the whole community. The essential characteristic of a claim-right is the inherent connection twine Ass claim to a benefit and Bi’s duty – A can make a claim that B must perform the duty.
However, there are other connotations of the phrase ‘A has a right to X’ that do not involve a corresponding duty on another’s part. The term may mean that A has a liberty with respect to X. In this view, A has no obligation not to do or have X, which may be different from the status of other people. Also, A can make no claim against another, because no-one else as a duty with respect to Ass enjoyment of X. A liberty may be enjoyed by all, such as the right to wear what one pleases while doing household chores. A subset of liberty is privilege, because A may have no duty not to do X but others do.
For instance, in some English colleges the dons have a right to walk across the grass in the quadrangle, although others must use the pathways instead. In any liberty there is no duty on anyone to provide the X involved; I. E. , no- one has a duty to provide the lawns simply for the dons to walk upon. To say that ‘A has a right to X’ may also indicate that A has a power to effect changes in X. Thus an owner of a bicycle has the right to sell it, and a customs officer has the right to confiscate property or detain people at the border.
Hayfield’s fourth interpretation of ‘A has a right to X’ conveys the notion that A has an immunity’s B is unable to change. Thus, Amp’s have a right to free speech that protects them from prosecution for speeches given in the House of Commons, and it is a right which cannot be changed by the executive, police, or courts. There are other uses of ‘having a right’ that should be added to those identified by Hoofed, because these other uses refer to ideals, needs, or wants that are simply expressed as rights.
The confusion between adjectival and substantive right has led to the frequent use of rights to describe deals. Thus, the rights to prosperity and peace are ideals or goals to strive for that some express as rights. Another confusion arises when people assert a right to a Bennett because it tills a need. But, not all needs are rights; I may need a car to drive to work in, but few would agree that I have a right to a car. Finally, many confuse benefits they want with benefits they have a right to; free, post-secondary education and complete bursaries may be desirable, but are not viewed as rights by many.
These uses of rights also involve a confusion between making a claim and having a right. One does not hold a right simply because one claims so, neither is it necessary to make claims in order to possess rights. It is not the act of claiming that creates rights. Thus, the claim to a right to prosperity or world peace does not establish that those benefits exist as rights. Neither does the fact that someone satisfies another’s claim confirm a right’s existence; a beggar may claim a right to $5 from a businessman, who may give the money, but that does not establish the beggar’s right to it.
It is important also to note that one may benefit from another’s duty, without having a right to that benefit. Christians may believe that they have a duty to give money to charity, but that does not mean that charities have a right to Christians’ money. These different notions of ‘right’ are important to bear in mind when discussing human rights. The most common interpretation given to the ‘right’ in human rights is that of claim-rights. There is a defined benefit to which individuals are entitled, and there is a correlative duty on others in relation to that benefit.