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What Is Human Rights?
What Is Human Rights?

Human Rights:
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, irrespective of a person's nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. Everybody is equally entitled to human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

In India, there are multiple ways of protecting human rights. The parliament and the executive are entrusted with the creation and implementation of the law of the land, while the judiciary protects its execution.

Besides these basic 'institutions' there are other bodies, who strengthen and enhance the existing mechanisms. Dedicated government agencies, socially inclined non-government organisations, local community groups and international co-operation agencies in fact provide the bulwark of human rights protection across the globe.

The Concept Behind Basic Human Privileges:
The modern concept of human rights developed in the aftermath of the Second World War. The phrase "human rights" is relatively modern, its intellectual foundations can be traced through philosophy and time honoured concepts of natural law and liberty.

Respect and realization of human rights requires evolving a culture that is more sensitive to the basic needs of every human being. It respects the need for ensuring to everyone justice, social, economic and political, and provides fair and equal opportunities for growth and development to every individual and group of people. It protects everyone from being subjected to the whims of State and its arbitrary exercise of power and use of force by its agencies.

The United Nations - External website that opens in a new window and its members developed much of the discourse and the bodies of law that now make up International Humanitarian Law - External website that opens in a new window and International Human Rights Law - External website that opens in a new window.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - External website that opens in a new window was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The UDHR urges member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights are part of the "foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.

The United Nations has reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and are determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

The Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Although the UDHR was a non-binding resolution, it is now considered to have acquired the force of international customary law which may be invoked under appropriate circumstances by national and other judiciaries.

The Indian Constitution & Human Rights
India took active part in drafting of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Indian delegation to the United Nations made important contributions in drafting of the Declaration, especially highlighting the need for reflecting gender equality. India is a signatory to the six core human rights covenants, and also the two Optional Protocols to the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Since inception, the Indian Constitution incorporated most of the rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration in two parts, the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy, that covered almost the entire field of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The first set of rights are enunciated in Articles 2 to 21 of the Declaration and incorporated under the Fundamental Rights - Articles 12 to 35 of the Constitution. These include the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right Against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural & Educational Rights, Saving of Certain Laws and Right to Constitutional Remedies.

The second set of rights enunciated in Articles 22 to 28 of the Declaration is incorporated under Directive Principles of State Policy - Article 36 to 51 of the Constitution. These include 'right to social security, right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and protection against unemployment, right to equal pay for equal work, right to existence worthy of human dignity, right to rest and leisure, right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, right to free & compulsory education, promotion of welfare of people, equal justice & free legal aid and the principles of policy to be followed by the State.'

However, respect for human rights as a part of its social philosophy has existed in the Indian ethos for a long time.

Protection of Human Right Act, 1993:
India introduced The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 - External website that opens in a new window which provided for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission at the Union level, which steers State Human Rights Commission in States and Human Rights Courts for better protection of Human Rights and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

The National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commissions are now very much a part of the life of the nation and, increasingly, of consequence to the quality of governance in the country. Awareness of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and included in the international instruments to which India is a State party, has increased dramatically in the country.

National Human Rights Commission:
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) - External website that opens in a new window was established on October 12, 1993, under the provisions of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 - External website that opens in a new window. The Commission serves as an independent and autonomous body for protection of human rights in the country.

Continuous attempts are being made by the Commission to address various Human Rights issues. Some of these issues are being monitored as Programmes on the directions of the Supreme Court of India.

The Programmes in pursuance of Supreme Court remit are:
# Abolition of Bonded Labour
# Functioning of the Mental Hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior
# Functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra
# Right to Food

Other Programmes and Human Rights issues taken up by the Commission include:
# Review of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
# Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
# Preventing Employment of Children by Government Servants: Amendment of Service Rules
# Abolition of Child Labour
# Guidebook for the Media on Sexual Violence against Children
# Trafficking in Women and Children : Manual for the Judiciary for Gender Sensitisation
# Sensitization Programme on Prevention of Sex Tourism and Trafficking
# Maternal Anaemia and Human Rights
# Rehabilitation of Destitute Women in Vrindavan
# Combating Sexual Harassment of Women at the Work Place
# Harassment of Women Passengers in Trains
# Abolition of Manual Scavenging
# Dalits issues including atrocities perpetrated on them
# Problems faced by Denotified and Nomadic Tribes
# Rights of the Disabled
# Right to Health
# Relief Work for the Victims of 1999 Orissa Cyclone
# Monitoring of relief measures undertaken after Gujarat Earthquake 2001
# District Complaints Authority
# Population Policy- Development and Human Rights

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