What Are Human Rights?


Human rights are rights that belong to every person regardless of ethnicity, sex, nationality, religion or any other status, says the United Nations. They belong to all people by virtue of their humanity, and governments that deprive people of them illegally often face international condemnation or litigation.

The earliest concept of the modern idea of human rights came during the Enlightenment, when thinkers such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and John Locke argued that all people had natural rights. In Locke's view, these rights consisted of life, liberty and private property. Over time, these concepts matured and expanded as activists began to use them in the struggle against slavery, dictatorship and colonialism, arguing that such oppressive systems violated the basic humanity of both the oppressor and the oppressed.