What Are Basic Human Rights?


In January 2016, Peru agreed to compensate
a woman for denying her an abortion when she was 17, a decade after the UN Human Rights
Committee decided that it was a violation of her basic human rights. The woman’s fetus
had a fatal birth defect that carried serious mental and physical health implications. With
abortion such a contentious topic, it was unprecedented that the UN ruled it a human
rights violation in this case. So we wanted to know: what are basic human rights, and
why do we have them? Well, the concepts of individual freedom and
inherent worth have existed since the beginning of human history. However, human rights as
an international legal framework didn’t develop until after World War Two. Years of
conflict and genocide had left millions of people homeless, starving or dead, and the
newly formed United Nations was determined to create a set of rules that would prevent
further atrocities. So in 1948, they put forth the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,
which affirmed that the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace was rooted in inherent
human dignity, and certain, inalienable rights for all humans. It also noted that disregard
for human rights has led to the “barbarous acts” seen in the war crimes of World War
Two. The UN included certain rights such as the right to freely exercise a faith, own
property, get a basic level of education. The declaration also recognized freedom from
enslavement and law-based discrimination. Today, this framework is followed by 193 nations,
and acts as a “common moral language” or barometer for government policy or cultural
practices. In the case of the Peruvian government agreeing
to compensate the abortion victim, the UN ruled that forcing a woman to carry out a
dangerous pregnancy violated several of her human rights. These included freedom from
cruel or inhumane treatment, the right to control your own body and the right to protection
from the state as a minor But the ruling was made in 2005, which means it took Peru a decade
to amend their human rights violation. This is an example of why, despite the legal frameworks,
human right violations persist. The UN’s declaration functions only as a set of guidelines,
and is not a treaty to which countries are legally bound. And although the UN investigates
potential violators, they usually can’t force a country to change an abusive law. The UN’s 2005 decision was the first time
the organization held a government accountable for preventing a legal abortion. Since the
ruling, other nations have revisited their abortion policies. Ireland even announced
in 2015 that it would consider legalizing abortions in cases of rape, incest and fetal
abnormalities, rather than just for life-threatening pregnancies. And in 2016, largely due to the
birth defect causing Zika virus, the UN urged governments in Latin America to loosen their
restrictions on abortion. In light of this, some wonder if abortion will ever be considered
a basic human right. As moral attitudes change, so does the social standard for basic human
rights. Unfortunately, the world’s human rights
record hasn’t been that great over the past few years. With active wars, brutal regimes,
millions of migrants, human trafficking and other atrocities, it may not be getting any
better. Check out this video to learn more about the state of human rights around the world. Thanks for watching Test Tube News,
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