Human rights are always associated with and are an integral part of the lives of people. They are basic principles and guidelines which depict human behaviour. These rights do not discriminate against people on the basis of caste, religion, sex, etc. They are considered to be unalienable. These human rights are also a subject in international forums and at the municipal level. Human rights can’t be directly related to fundamental rights but it has a wider ambit. For eg., right to privacy to men and women, right to life, right to freedom of expression, right to education, and so on. It should be promoted from the beginning to counter problems in case there is any violation of right. These rights benefit society on a larger scale and accordingly help in framing and adopting the public policy. For instance, the Protection of the Human Rights Act was passed in 1993. Recently, the Protection of Human Rights Act was amended in the year 2019.
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Historical Development Of Human Rights
The concept of human rights had a long history of thousands of years. During this period, it drew attention to various legal, religious and philosophical development within those thousand years. People acquired rights and responsibilities by membership in a group – a family, indigenous nation, religion, class, community, or state. Most societies have had traditions similar to the “golden rule” of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.The document of Individual Rights of Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights, and the U.S Constitution and Bill of Rights are those documents that are now framed into today’s human rights.
Human Rights Forums
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): The United Nations (UN) came into being in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II. It was incorporated to formulate policies out of human rights in the UN. It consists of 30 articles. Under Eleanor Roosevelt, the commission started defining the basic rights and freedoms. 10th December is celebrated as Human Rights Day across the globe because on that day, the General Assembly adopted these human rights. It has been translated into over 500 languages.
- United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC): It is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations that promotes human rights around the globe. This council was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March 2006. It is located in Geneva, Switzerland. The Council is made up of 47 United Nations member states which are elected by the UN General Assembly . In case there is a violation/infringement of human rights as stated under the United Nations, the human rights council is set up for the protection of rights.
Other U.N conventions regarding human rights are as follows :
- The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD): It aims at eliminating racial discrimination and thus, bring equality among all the races. This convention was adopted in the General Assembly on 21st December 1965.
- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): This convention came into effective on 3 September 1981. This convention aims to give equal rights to women and eliminate gender discrimination on the basis of employment, salary, and so on.
- The Committee on Migrant Workers established in 2004 (ICRMW): It entered into force on 1 July 2003. The main purpose of that contention is to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families. The convention required a minimum of 20 ratifications before it could enter into force.
- The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC): The child is defined as a human being who is below the age of 18 years. It restricts the child in his involvement in military conflicts, child pornography, child prostitution, and the sale of a child.
- National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): This commission was incorporated on 12th October, 1993. The statute under which it is adopted is the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA). This organization aims at creating awareness about one’s human rights among the masses. It mainly deals particularly with civil and political rights. Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines human rights as the rights relating to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India. This commission includes a chairperson and seven other members. Out of the seven members, four are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a selected committee. The retired Chief Justice of India is the chairman of the commission. The other members of this committee include two retired judges of the Supreme Court of India, individual members who are well aware of human rights, and other ex-officio members. In India, the government has established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Their responsibility is to prevent domestic violence and make sure that if anyone commits any offence, he would be punished under the statute.
Composition of NHRC
- The NHRC consists of a chairperson, four full-time members, and three ex-officio members like:
- Chairperson, who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
- One member who is, or has been a judge of the Supreme Court,
- One member who is, or has been Chief Justice of a High Court,
- Two persons who know the matter related to human rights.
The chairperson of the commission is appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee constituting Prime Minister as chairman, speaker of Lok Sabha, leader of opposition of Lok sabha and Rajya Sabha, and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha as a member.
Human Rights And Women
While talking about human rights from women’s perspective, gender violence is universally spread among the various classes, cultures, and races. The UN has also addressed women’s rights against violence. There are 23 main conventions and 5 special rights to women. Those rights are:
- Conventions on the political rights of women.
- Convention on the consent of marriage, minimum age of marriage, and registration of marriages.
- Convention on the nationality of women
- Convention on recovery abroad from maintenance.
The violation of the rights of a woman is a violation of their human rights. One of the examples in violations includes
- Sexual harassment or physical assault,
- Female foeticide,
- Sati pratha, dowry deaths,
- Other discrimination based on employment, wages, and so on.
These all are punishable under the Indian Penal Code. Sexual harassment is punishable under section 354A whereas female foeticide is an offence under sections 312 to 316. Sati pratha is now prohibited whereas dowry deaths are punished under section 304-B. The provisions of discrimination of women’s rights are well defined in the Indian Constitution. It is enshrined in the preamble, fundamental rights, fundamental duties, and directive principles of state policy (DPSP).
The awareness of these human rights is done by many non-governmental organizations as well. These non-governmental organizations also get support from the Human Rights Commission. The awareness of these human rights starts at the school level itself. This human rights course is either taught as a subject or it is taught as a chapter in their courses. Going ahead, if anyone has his right to violate, then he can deal with this situation because he taught him about human rights in his schooldays. All these non-governmental organizations conduct campaigns, programs, seminars to promote human rights on a growing scale. There are separate organizations for promoting women’s rights, which is supported by the Women’s Commission and they protect those rights. If there is any involvement or harassment or any other incident with them, then it is a violation of their human rights due to which these organizations are set up.
Human rights are an asset for every human being because he helps us in a very serious situation. If there is any discrimination against anyone, then our fundamental rights that come under human rights protect us and we get true justice and for this, the respective councils are also incorporated making sure that there is peace maintained within the society. The United Nations has also taken cognizance of these rights and has made respective changes and implemented them. In my opinion, in a country like India which is not developed in comparison to other countries, with the increase in the rate of population, the government is even more challenged. Therefore, the government now has to deal with this problem very carefully. Therefore, there must be mechanisms so that the awareness of human rights spreads throughout the country.
 United Nation Human Right Council, available at : www.ohchr.org
 The protection of Human Rights Act, available at : www.indiacode.nic.in ( Last modified 27th July, 2019)
BY PRASHANT BHATI | FACULTY OF LAW, DU