Rights are essential entitlements or justified claims necessary to lead a life of dignity and respect.
Rights are legitimate claims that we consider to be due to us. These rights must be upheld and are necessary for our well-being. Provision of certain rights helps individuals to develop their talents and skills and there by making a dignified life.
Rights are of different kinds – political, economic,legal,human,social and many other. With the changing time, the claims of individuals for rights also changed. The rights have its origin in the ancient period itself where the rulers claimed that divine rights were given to them by God. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, several political theorists argued that rights were given to humans by nature or god.
Early liberals such as John Locke, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson had supported the idea of natural rights. They proposed several theories stating that rights of men were derived from the natural law. John Locke emphasized that “man knows his limits and hence be given freedoms”. Locke said that natural rights are those rights which they acquired by birth. As such these rights are inalienable and cannot be separated from humans. Locke noted that these rights are immutable. This implies that no state or organisation should take away what has been given by the law of nature.
Though theory of natural rights is widely believed there are several criticisms against it. Legal theorists says that rights are given by law and state has the power to restrain these rights. Whereas historical theorists like Edmund Burke called these natural rights as metaphysical arbitration as these rights are widely used to oppose arbitrary power exercised by states and governments and to safeguard individual freedom which sometimes may cause harm to the greater mass.
Since the early 20th century ,there is an increased emphasis on HUMAN RIGHTS. The fight for human rights started against the atrocities committed by Nazi on Jews. Thomas Aquinas stated that human rights are drawn as an inspiration from Doctrine of Natural Rights. The assumption behind such rights is that all persons are entitled to certain things simply because they are humans.
Emmanuel Khant in his theories stated that human rights are based on human dignity . For him to treat people with dignity is to treat them morally i.e,moral conception of rights. Khant proposed that one should not be treated as means to their ends. He claims these rights as rights of humanity as a whole. The western humanist thinkers such as Michael Walser stated in their theories that there is a thin moral code between societies upon which we all agree, and they claimed that human rights are part of ethical moral code and are universal in nature. Modern liberal thinkers says that all are born with equal dignity and rights and hence has to be protected.
Many critiques of human rights point out that there is no uniform set of human rights that are universally accepted. Huntington in one of his theories stated that these rights had resulted in clash of civilizations and contributed to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Feminist scholars criticized the human rights stating that they are reflective of patriarchal mindset in which rights in private spaces of women are neglected.
Rights are increasingly seen as guarantees that human beings themselves seek or arrive at in order to lead a minimally good life. Human rights are derived from natural rights and hence both must be considered.