'Know your Rights'

Human Rights

By Molly-May Smith

Human rights are founded on the idea that everyone should be able to live a fair, free and dignified life. They ensure human beings have a degree of protection from unfair and inhumane treatment.

Human rights apply equally to all human beings, no matter who you are or where you’re from. Neither your government nor another person can take them away from you, but sometimes they can be restricted or violated.

Human rights aren’t just theoretical – they’re often protected by law. Today, we understand human rights through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Following the atrocities committed during World War II, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was drawn up in 1948 to attempt to unify all the countries in the world. All 192 members of the United Nations signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here are a few examples of human rights, all of which are set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They cover economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.

  • You should never be discriminated against for any reason. Rights belong to all people, whatever our differences.
  • No‐one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.  
  • You have the right to be treated by the law in the same way as everyone else.
  • You have the right to marry and to raise a family.
  • You have the right to practice your religion freely.
  • You have the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  
  • You have the right to take part in and choose the government of your country.  
  • You have the right to work, to good working conditions, to get a fair salary, to equal pay for equal work and to form and join unions.  
  • You have the right to a decent life, including enough food, clothing, housing, medical care and social security.
  • You have the right to an education.  

What’s the Problem?

Despite all countries in the United Nations signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it’s not legally binding and some don’t observe their responsibility and continue to violate people’s freedoms and dignity. Most governments have made efforts to integrate human rights and ideas of equality and fairness into their legal systems to ensure they’re enforced.

How are Human Rights Enforced?

It falls to the individual state to secure human rights in their own countries and take the necessary measures to ensure they are respected. Most states have incorporated elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into their constitutions or legal systems. But even amongst the governments that have, there are still examples of human rights violations.   

UK Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act gives people a set of laws they can use to support their case in a UK court. It was passed by Parliament in 1998.

Sometimes we associate human rights abuses with different countries, but this is a myth. This idea can be quite damaging and leads people to think that the UK is innocent, or that human rights abuses only happen in other parts of the world – but human rights violations happen everyday in the UK.

European Convention on Human Rights

An international treaty signed by 47 European states, who all made a legal commitment in 1950. Member countries and citizens from across the EU can bring cases to the European Court of Human Rights. Any decisions made by the court are usually respected and enforced by member states.

UN Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council can investigate human rights violations and make recommendations, but they can’t force countries to change a policy or seek justice for victims.  

Cartoon quote reads: if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor
Cartoon reads: equal

Take Action:

Know Your Rights

It seems simple, but it’s powerful. Knowing the rights and freedoms you and others are entitled to arms you with the knowledge to challenge injustices and protect yourself and others.

Use the British Institute for Human Rights tool to learn more about your rights in the UK.

Get Specific

Learn about individual human rights cases in the UK and in the rest of the world. There’s a whole host of different types of human rights issues, from women’s rights to the death penalty, you might find something that inspires you to take action.  

Read up on different types of human rights violations here.

Read up on human rights issues in the UK here.

Hold People in Power Accountable

Organisations will often ask you to support their campaigns in a number of ways on their websites or social media platforms. This could be:

  • Signing a petition.
  • Sharing information with friends and family and having conversations.
  • Joining a protest or public meeting.
  • Writing to a Member of Parliament or decision maker.
  • Reading further resources to be better informed about human rights issues at home and abroad.

Join a Group

There are a number of organisations who work on and discuss various human rights issues in Merseyside. Here’s just a few suggestions!

  • Liverpool, Wirral, Fornby and Southport Amnesty groups.
  • University of Liverpool Amnesty group.
  • Liverpool Friends of the Earth Group.
  • Merseyside Greenpeace.
  • Youth Strike 4 Climate Liverpool.
  • Fawcett Merseyside – women’s rights group.
  • Reclaim the Night Liverpool – campaign against sexual violence.
  • Period Project Merseyside.
  • A guide to refugee and asylum organisations in Liverpool.
  • Liverpool Queer Collective.
  • Comics Youth – a creative youth empowerment charity

Learn More: