We are hearing a lot about human rights at the moment, especially in the LGBT arena, but what are our human rights and why should we be granted them without question?
I’ve been brought up to believe in a balance between rights and responsibilities and that we can’t have one without the other. Well of course this isn’t accurate. When we are born we should be granted certain rights automatically. The official ones according to the European Convention on Human Rights can be seen in the side column.
Straight forward, fair and equitable. So why have we in the LGBT community had to fight so hard for the right to marry and start a family, when that right is clearly defined? There is nothing that says these rights should only be attributed to certain members of society or any particular gender, race or religion.
Something important to understand is that most of these rights are not absolute and will have some restrictions or interpretations. For example, the right to liberty may be removed if you break the law.
There is more to human rights than the law though and this is where my belief that rights always go hand in hand with responsibilities comes into play. I have the right to my liberty as long as I meet my responsibility to follow the law of the land. I have the right to respect for my private life, but I also have the responsibility to respect the private life of others. And so on. This balance of fairness is hugely important to me. If one person has the right to something, then so should every person.
Of course, sometimes life doesn’t feel very fair. Why is someone luckier than me? Why do they have more opportunity than I do? Why did they get to be so wealthy when I struggle to get by? On the surface of things all of that seems unfair. But if you are truly honest with yourself, there will be clear reasons for all of it.
Whilst I don’t consider myself a religious person I was brought up in a Christian family and therefore one of my absolute values is ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself’. According to the bible, this ‘golden rule’ came from Jesus in his sermon on the mount. Regardless of where it comes from though, it’s a great way to live your life and I would extend it to say ‘whatever you expect for yourself, allow it for others’. Everything that makes us human should allow us to treat everybody with equality. Why should anyone be treated any less, regardless of gender, sexuality, religion or race? We now have laws protecting us, but we still judge people if they are different or have different expectations or desires. Freedom to be who we are is so important. As long as we are not harming anyone else in the process we should be allowed the freedom to do whatever we see fit.
Recently I was introduced to the South African word ‘Ubuntu’ which literally means ‘human-ness’. However, it has also been translated as ‘humanity towards others’ and also ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. This simple concept and philosophy should be a way of life which we all follow and aspire to.
Humanity is a quality we owe to each other which we all deserve. When we offer it without question or judgement we will have achieved true enlightenment and a better life for everyone.
The European Convention on Human Rights
Right to life
Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
Right to liberty and security
Freedom from slavery and forced labour
Right to a fair trial
No punishment without law
Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
Freedom of thought, belief and religion
Freedom of expression
Freedom of assembly and association
Right to marry and start a family
Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms
Right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
Right to education
Right to participate in free elections