Examples of Human Rights

Updated October 17, 2022
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Human rights are fundamental inalienable rights that you have just by virtue of the fact that you are a person. Although the government can pass laws to protect your human rights, human rights are rights believed to be granted by God or by some higher power and everyone has human rights even if legislation doesn't protect them or if oppressive governments do not respect them.

Fundamental Human Rights

Human rights are the most fundamental and important of rights. They are the rights that the government in the United States spelled out in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and they are the rights that the United Nations aims to protect for all people. These rights would exist even without government protection or intervention.

Some examples of human rights include:

  • The right to life
  • The right to liberty and freedom
  • The right to the pursuit of happiness
  • The right to live your life free of discrimination
  • The right to control what happens to your own body and to make medical decisions for yourself
  • The right to freely exercise your religion and practice your religious beliefs without fear of being prosecuted for your beliefs
  • The right to be free from prejudice on the basis of race, gender, national origin, color, age or sex
  • The right to grow old
  • The right to a fair trial and due process of the law
  • The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
  • The right to be free from torture
  • The right to be free from slavery
  • The right to freedom of speech
  • The right to freely associate with whomever you like and to join groups of which you'd like to be a part.
  • The right to freedom of thought
  • The right not to be prosecuted from your thoughts

Most people accept these rights as fundamental and inalienable and in free countries like the United States, there is little disagreement about these basic human rights.


Controversial Human Rights

There are other rights that some believe are basic human rights but that others believe are more controversial.

For example, some of the controversial rights that some believe are human rights include:

  • The right to reproductive freedom including the right to choose abortion
  • The right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including the right to marry a person of the same sex
  • The right to bear arms and to not have the government infringe unduly on that right
  • The right to regular and affordable health insurance subsidized or supported by the government or provided by a single payer system

    Government programs such as Social Security, Medicare and food stamps that purport to protect the poor also are based on the idea that people have the basic right not to live in poverty, to have enough to eat and to grow old gracefully. While these programs may be more controversial, most people accept these rights as part of the social safety net even there is disagreement on how best to facilitate programs that guarantee these rights.

    Different societies have different ideas on what fundamental human rights are and the government protections extended to protect basic human rights are a reflection of the widespread cultures and ideals of the society as a whole. Continue learning about rights by exploring what natural rights are.