In a world where natural law is given credence, the rights and freedom of individuals are spelt out by laws that have been created. However, since the beginning of mankind, what are individual rights and freedom? The study of history shows that there is no clear order in which the society of old, without today’s civilization and enlightenment, existed in. They lived as humans who found themselves existing freely.
However, we exist in a conscious environment and it has become imperative that the terms of rights and freedom are clearly explained and protected by laws that have been established for its purpose. The question would be asked, what are individual rights and freedom? In the constitution of many nations of the world, the rights of persons are written and are protected by the law. What this right is and how they became recognized as rights are what this essay will consider.
Rights can be described in a libertarian world as the belief in freedom from external influence or intimidation in the lives of individuals. This freedom from external influence could be from another person or the government. The exclusion of their interference forms the basis of liberty and freedom which is then reflected in the personal pursuit of life goals. By this, rights enforce people to seek that which interests them without unwanted external influence on either their decision-making process or the living of the life they’ve eked out for themselves.
The history of individual rights and freedom can be traced to the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. On the 4th of July, 1776, the US Congress assented to the Declaration of Independence from the British Empire. Having in mind that Thomas Jefferson wrote America’s Declaration of Independence, he urged people who became drafters of the constitution to identify the individual right of the people.
Thomas believed that the state had cheated its people and manifested power and authority where they had no jurisdiction. At first, the Declaration of Independence had individual rights and the right to revolution because this period was the period the Thirteen British colonies came together to fight for their independence from Great Britain. However, the later Constitution of the United States of America in 1781 and the Bill of Rights in 1791 further stressed the rights and freedom of a free society and its people. This ensured the liberty of the people under their government.
The ten amendments to the Bill of Rights came into effect on the 15th of December, 1791. An amendment that restricted the powers of the federal government on the citizens while it maintaining the rights of all nationals and visitors to the US territory. This rose from the symbiotic fear of an absolute government on the people which could lead to numerous civil wars in the latter period of independence.
The activity of colonization is a mutual experience. The founding fathers of the Bill knew the government of colonization as much as the people of the Thirteen Colonies did. Hence, providing a bill of absolute federal government power would be tantamount to providing a bill that reserved the right of citizens at the mercy of an absolute system of government. A program that would lead to a series of catastrophes. Hence, the Bill of Rights provided and maintained rights for the people, and safeguarded freedom and protection of the people by the government.
For centuries now, the US has protected the rights of its people and since citizens understand their rights, they could protect them and voluntarily permit external influences. One of the critical embodiment of the rights and freedom of people began with numerous recognition of people. Starting with the abolition of slavery, recognition of women’s suffrage, granting of public and free education as well as the recognition of both civil rights and the need for public and community hospitals, people were declared free and granted the liberty to enjoy public health and recognition.
Further, the recognition of women’s movement (de-marginalization of women, hence, active feminism), the importance of environmental health and movement, the legality of LGBTQ, and the recognition of migrants and migration become one of the true embodiments of human rights and freedom. All these different communities that are recognized enforce and identified the true nature of a free society regardless of who and what a person is.
Hence, rights and freedom are characterized by pride and recognition of individualism, civic responsibility, and contribution to community development, conscious pursuit of people for the common good; investment in social capital, and ensuring a reasonable level of public responsibility. More so, the activity of solidarity is also an important feature of defending and protecting the rights and freedom of people.
By this, the values of individual freedom are established and institutions that protect them are enforced, this upholds the legacy of nations and the liberty of people. The premise of equality is based on the judgment that everyone is equal. Natural law philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Finns, Plato, and others assert that these laws and rights are created for humans by God. However, civil society is only created to permit a form of political legitimacy to the people to protect and defend their rights and freedom under a legal system.
These rights, however, are freedom, they are natural and legitimate and are for everyone regardless of gender, sex, or status. This is because each person has a responsibility to himself and his environment.
However, the bedrock of every right that is established in most constitutions of countries is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights produced by the United Nations Organization. These rights include the recognition of human beings as free-born and equal in dignity and rights.
The summation of the freedom and rights of people includes the right to recognition and equality before the law; right to life and freedom without affiliation to race, colour, sex, language, national or political status; rights to own properties; right to liberty and security of persons; right to freedom from forced labour or slavery, right to protection from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment; right to equality without discrimination; right to privacy and reputation; right to freedom of thought, religion, belief, and conscience; right to the freedom of expression; right to peaceful assembly and association; right to protection of families and children; rights to humane treatment when deprived of liberty; rights to fair hearing in criminal proceedings, etc.
The idea of individual rights and freedom is entrenched in the recognition of human liberty and right as stated in the natural law. It is maintained that states, regardless of the system of government, must not undermine any of the fundamental freedom and right of persons. By this, the protection of human dignity is manifested and protected as equal before the law and other persons.
Also, without these rights and freedom of the human person, a person is only subject to the arbitrary privileges granted by another person who lords himself or herself over a human’s life. People are born free and are to exist freely without intimidation, pressure, or any other form of external involuntary control.
· Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations
· Individual Rights and Community Responsibility from https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/individual-rights-and-community-responsibilities
· A Brief History of Human Rights from https://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/brief-history/declaration-of-independence.html
· True Rights are Freedoms, Not Powers from http://www.quebecoislibre.org/younkins20.html
· The Chater of Human Rights and Responsibilities from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
· Individual Liberty and the Importance of the Concept of the People from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-018-0151-3