Human Rights Essay

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Leslie Tu Mrs. Freeland TAG English I, Block 5 3 March 2011 Universal Human Rights in the Past, Present, and Future While the phrase “human rights” is relatively modern, the idea has permeated through the entirety of human existence, from the first rudiments of civilization to the vast societies of modern times. What rights innately belong to the human species as a whole? Governments, communities, and individuals still explore that question today. Although human rights violations still persist in the world, universal human rights laws have defined and promised to protect unalienable individual rights. The world has known and tried to interpret the concept of human rights for millennia. Merriam Webster defines human rights as “rights (as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons.” “Basic … recognition of human rights is in our nature,” as shown throughout history (“Drafting”). According to the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, attempts to protect these human rights can be traced all the way back to the Hammurabi Codes of ancient Babylon in 1700 B.C.E. In the 1700s, philosophers like John Locke and Thomas Paine explored and questioned exactly what rights innately belonged to the people. Some relatively recent declarations of rights include the United States’ Bill of Rights and Great Britain’s Magna Carta. However, these documents had a major flaw: they did not apply to “all persons” but rather excluded certain groups. For example, in America, African-Americans did not gain equality before the 1960s, and women could not vote until the 1920s (“Drafting”). So, despite some efforts, not everyone could retain his or her individual rights. This problem would be partially solved in 1948, when the United Nations adopted its own declaration. Today, the major manifestation of universal human

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