What’s The Difference Between Human Rights and Fundamental Rights?

When we talk about “rights,” we’re talking about certain things that people are entitled to. When it’s “human rights,” it is rights that all people should enjoy, regardless of where they live, their race, their gender, and so on. They are inalienable. Fundamental rights, while they sound like they would be interchangeable with human rights, are slightly different. How?

What are fundamental rights?

When you are a citizen of a country, you are entitled to that country’s fundamental rights. They are usually very similar to human rights, such as the right to free speech, but only that country’s system of law oversees them. Fundamental rights are listed in some kind of official document, like a constitution, and if they are violated, a citizen can go to court for justice. These rights apply to all citizens regardless of their race, religion, gender, and so on. The idea of fundamental rights lies in democratic societies, which is why not every country in the world protects them. Early societies that embraced fundamental rights include ancient Persia, Rome, and Greece, a country that’s widely-considered to be the first democracy. A (male) citizen from Greece enjoyed fundamental rights like the right to vote, own property, and hold public office.

What are human rights?

Human rights apply to everyone in the world. Their citizenship doesn’t matter. The United Nations enshrined these rights following WWII in order to address the gross violations that occurred. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom from slavery, and so on, but while fundamental rights are overseen by a specific country, human rights are monitored by the United Nations. A country can have fundamental rights, but be guilty of violating human rights. As an example, in ancient Greece, women were not given full citizenship like men, so the society was violating the basic human right that all genders should be treated equally. In the modern era, there are many countries that give citizens certain rights, but in the meanwhile are suppressing freedom of speech and not allowing certain religions to practice in speech.

The main differences

So, the main difference between human rights and fundamental rights aren’t so much the actual rights themselves, but who is responsible for overseeing them and who they apply to. Human rights are derived from basic human dignity and monitored by the United Nations. They apply to every human being on the planet. Fundamental rights arise from democratic societies and are the responsibility of the countries where they’re established. They apply to citizens of that country. In an ideal world, human rights would be considered fundamental rights for every country.

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