by Daveed Mandell
(Reprinted from “The Blind Californian,” Fall 2023, Vol. 67, No. 4.)
Human rights matter. They affect every aspect of daily life. Yet they are gradually eroding in this country and throughout the world. In too many instances, we are seeing hate and intolerance become the norm.
What are human rights? Human rights are universal rights we have, simply because we are human beings. Unlike civil rights, they are not granted by any state. We are all equally entitled to human rights, regardless of nationality, gender, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, disability or sexual orientation.
Human rights are embodied in the 30 articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted in 1948. It has become the standard for basic equality and human dignity. Fundamental human rights include everything from the right to life and freedom of movement, to the rights to food and water, education, work, health and liberty.
The UDHR was the first legal document to outline the fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It continues to be the foundation of all international human rights law and provides the principles and building blocks of current and future human rights conventions, treaties and other legal instruments.
The UDHR together with the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights comprise the International Bill of Rights.
Human rights are inalienable and should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For instance, human rights can be withheld, to a certain extent, if a person is guilty of a crime.
Why Human Rights Matter
- Human rights ensure that people’s basic needs are met, because everyone needs and deserves access to health care, food and water, clothing and shelter.
- Human rights protect vulnerable groups from abuse, such as people of color and LGBTQ.
- Human rights allow people to stand up to, and speak out against, societal corruption and abuse.
- Human rights encourage freedom of speech and expression.
- Human rights give people the freedom to practice their religion, or not practice any religion.
- Human rights allow people to love whom they choose.
- Human rights encourage equal work opportunities.
- Human rights give people access to education.
- Human rights protect the environment.
Human rights provide a universal standard that holds governments accountable.