Know your fundamental rights

Let’s stop beating about the bush, shall we?

Now-a-days, we often come across the terms like ‘right to education’, ‘right to information’ and ‘right to protest peacefully’. Often, one feels that he has certain rights. Simultaneously, we may be told by someone, that we have certain duties towards other individuals, society, nation or the humanity. But does every human being enjoy the rights or everyone performs the duties? The answer to this perhaps is not. But most of us will agree that there are certain rights that must be enjoyed by individuals. Particularly, in a country like ours, there are rights that must be guaranteed to every citizen. For instance, if one has a right to life, it means that others do not have the authority to hurt him or her.

Thus, a right comes with an obligation to show respect for the rights of others. The obligations that accompany rights are in the form of duties. If we have the right to enjoy public facilities like transport or health services, it becomes our duty to allow others to avail the same. If we have the right to freedom, it becomes our duty not to misuse this and harm others.

In primitive times, there were no human rights. Then the idea emerged that people should have certain freedoms. However, when did Human Rights start? Human Rights history emanates from the Cyrus Cylinder (539 B.C.) In 539 B.C., the armies of Cyrus the Great, the first king of ancient Persia, conquered the city of Babylon. But it was his next actions that marked a major advance for Man. He freed the slaves, declared that all people had the right to choose their own religion, and established racial equality. Human Rights continued to evolve through the history. The Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right (1628), the US Constitution (1787), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789),  US Bill of Rights (1791) were the major milestones in recognising the importance of human rights and to maintain peace in the world. The original document from the first Geneva Convention in 1864 provided for care to wounded soldiers.

World War II had ranged from 1939 to 1945, and as the end drew near, cities throughout Europe and Asia lay in smouldering ruins. Millions of people were dead, millions more were homeless or starving.  After World War II, fifty nations met in San Francisco in 1945 and formed the United Nations to protect and promote peace. The Charter of the new United Nations organisation went into effect on October 24, 1945, a date that is celebrated each year as United Nations Day.

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pakistan was among the first 48 countries to adopt the Declaration by voting in favour of the Declarations. The Declaration has inspired a number of other human rights laws and treaties throughout the world. Following this historic act the United Nations General Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicise the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories. In a nutshell these thirty articles can be described as follows:

Article 1, Right to equality:

Everyone is born free and equal in rights to every other human being. You have the ability to think and to tell right from wrong. You should treat others with friendship.

Article 2, Freedom from discrimination:

Everyone has all these human rights no matter which race, skin colour, sex, language, religion, opinions, family background, social or economic status, birth or nationality they belong to.

Article 3, Right to life, liberty and personal security:

Everyone has the right to live, to be free and to feel safe.

Article 4, Freedom from slavery:

Nobody has the right to treat you as a slave, and you should not make anyone your slave.

Article 5, Freedom from torture and degrading treatment:

Nobody has the right to torture, harm or humiliate anyone.

Article 6, Right to recognition as a person before the law:

Everyone has a right to be accepted everywhere as a person according to law.

Article 7, Right to equality before the law:

Everyone has a right to be protected and treated equally by the law without discrimination of any kind.

Article 8, Right to remedy by capable judges:

If your legal rights are violated, you have the right to fair and capable judges to uphold your rights.

Article 9, Freedom from arbitrary arrest and exile:

Nobody has the right to arrest you, put you in prison or to force you out of your country without good reasons.

Article 10, Right to fair public hearing:

If you are accused of a crime, you have the right to a fair and public hearing.

Article 11, Right to be considered innocent until proven guilty:

You should be considered innocent until it can be proved in a fair trial that you are guilty.You cannot be punished for doing something that was not considered a crime at the time you did it.

Article 12, Freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence:

Everyone has the right to be protected if someone tries to harm your good name or enter your house, open your mail or bother you or your family without good reason.

Article 13, Right to free movement:

Everyone has the right to come and go as he wishes within his country. Everyone has the right to leave his country to go to another one, and should be able to return to own country if he wants.

Article 14, Right to protection in another country:

If someone threatens to hurt you, you have the right to go to another country and ask for protection as a refugee. You lose this right if you have committed a serious crime.

Article 15, Right to a nationality and the freedom to change it:

Everyone has the right to belong to a country and have a nationality. No one can take away your nationality without a good reason. Everyone has a right to change his nationality if he so wishes.

Article 16, Right to marriage and family:

When legally old enough, Everyone has the right to marry and have a family without any limitations based on race, country or religion. Both partners have the same rights when they are married and also when they are separated. Nobody should force you to marry. The family is the basic unit of society, and government should protect it.

Article 17, Right to own property:

Everyone has the right to own things. Nobody has the right to take these things from you without a good reason.

Article 18, Freedom of thought, conscience and religion:

Everyone has the right to own thoughts and to believe in any religion. You are free to practise your religion.

Article 19, Freedom of opinion and information:

Everyone has the right to hold and express own opinions. Everyone should be able to share his opinions with others, including people from other countries, through any ways.

Article 20, Right to peaceful assembly and association:

Everyone has the right to meet peacefully with other people. No one can force you to belong to a group.

Article 21, Right to participate in government and elections:

Everyone has the right participate in government, either by holding an office or by electing someone to represent him. Everyone has the right to serve his country. Governments should be elected regularly by fair and secret voting.

Article 22, Right to social security:

The society you live in should provide you with social security and the rights necessary for your dignity and development.

Article 23, Right to desirable work and to join trade unions:

Everyone has the right to work, to choose work and to work in good conditions. People who do the same work should get the same pay. Everyone should be able to earn a salary that allows him to live and support his family. All people who work have the right to join together in unions to defend their interests.

Article 24, Right to rest and leisure:

Everyone has the right to rest and free time. Your workday should not be too long, and you should be able to take regular paid holidays.

Article 25, Right to adequate living standard:

Everyone has the right to the things he and his family need to have a healthy and comfortable life, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and other social services. You have a right to help if you are out of work or unable to work. Mothers and children should receive special care and help.

Article 26, Right to education:

Everyone has the right to go to school. Primary schooling should be free and required. You should be able to learn a profession or continue your stud-ies as far as you can. At school, you should be able to develop all your talents and learn to respect others, whatever their race, religion or nationality. Your parents should have a say in the kind of education you receive.

Article 27, Right to participate in the cultural life of community:

Everyone has the right to participate in the traditions and learning of your community, to enjoy the arts and to benefit from scientific progress. If you are an artist, writer or scientist, your work should be protected and you should be able to benefit from it.

Article 28, Right to a social order:

Everyone has a right to the kind of world where he and all people can enjoy these rights and freedoms.

Article 29, Responsibilities to the community

Your personality can only fully develop within your community, and you have responsibilities to that community. The law should guarantee human rights. It should allow everyone to respect others and to be respected. These rights and freedoms should support the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30, Freedom from interference in these human rights:

No person, group or government anywhere in the world should do anything to destroy these rights.

The Declaration expresses the universality of rights, based on the principle that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. It would be of great benefit if all above rights are known to citizens of Pakistan and specially children. As required by the United Nations General Assembly, our Government should form a policy through relevant education departments to publicise the text of the Declaration in schools and other educational institutions.