CIVIL RIGHTS

“Civil rights” are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment (and to be free from unfair treatment or “discrimination”) in a number of settings including education, employment, housing and many more which is based on certain legally protected characteristics. Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals’ freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one’s ability to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression. Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples’ physical and mental integrity, life, and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as race, gender, national origin, age, political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, or disability; and individual rights and liberties such as privacy and the freedoms of thought, speech, religion, press, assembly, and movement.

According to United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Civil rights include the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to government services, the right to a public education, and the right to use public facilities. Civil rights are an essential component of democracy; when individuals are being denied opportunities to participate in political society, they are being denied their civil rights. In contrast to civil liberties, which are freedoms that are secured by placing restraints on government, civil rights are secured by positive government action, often in the form of legislation.

Civil rights laws attempt to guarantee full and equal citizenship for people who have traditionally been discriminated against on the basis of some group characteristic. When the enforcement of civil rights is found by many to be inadequate, a civil rights movement may emerge in order to call for equal application of the laws without discrimination. Unlike other rights concepts, such as human rights or natural rights, in which people acquire rights inherently, perhaps from God or nature, civil rights must be given and guaranteed by the power of the state. Therefore, they vary greatly over time, culture, and form of government and tend to follow societal trends that condone or abhor particular types of discrimination.

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