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Subject: Social Studies
Topic: Human Rights
Learning Objectives: by the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:
- State the meaning of the term human rights;
- State the fundamental human rights of their countries;
- Mention ways by which human rights can be violated or abused;
- State the consequences of abusing human rights;
- State ways of preventing human rights abuse.
What are Human Rights?
The term Human Rights is derived from the idea or principle that human beings have universal rights, or status, regardless of the political system in which they live and regardless of their ethnic identity and nationality. These rights are considered to be God-given and cannot be removed by society or government. The rights include; freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and conscience, and the rights to equal protection before the law.
Legally, human rights are defined in international law and covenants and, further, in the domestic laws of many countries. However, for many people, the doctrine of human rights goes beyond law and forms a fundamental moral basis for regulating contemporary society.
The Fundamental Human Rights Of Nigeria
The Nigerian Constitution elaborates on the rights of citizens. These rights include:
i. Right to life
ii. Right to diginity of the human person
iii. Right to personal liberty
iv. Right to fair hearing
v. Right to private and family life
vi. Right to freedom if thought, conscience and religion
vii. Right to peaceful assembly and association
viii. Right to freedom from discrimination
ix. Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
Violations of Human Rights.
Human Rights violation means to deprive people of their fundamental human rights, or to prevent them from exercising their rights. It is a term used when a government violates national or international law relating to the protection of human rights.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fundamental human rights are violated when:
i. A certain race, Creed, or group is denied recognition as a ‘person’
ii. Men and women are not treated as equals
iii. Different racial or religious groups are not treated as equals
iv. Life, liberty or security of the person is threatened.
v. A person is sold as or used as a slave.
vi. Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment is used on a person (such as torture or execution).
vii. Punishments are imposed based on personal judgement without a proper or fair trial.
viii. There is arbitrary interference into personal or private lives by agents of the state.
ix. Citizens are forbidden to leave or return to their country.
x. Freedom of speech or religion is denied.
xi. The right to join a trade union is denied.
xii. Education is denied.
Consequences of Human Rights Abuses.
In a country where human rights are routinely violated, the citizens will not be happy. They will not see themselves as citizens but as slaves and subjects. As such their life under the government will not be a happy one. People whose rights are abused and violated are not able to express themselves and show their creative ability. Such a society will be full of fear of the police and intelligence personnel. The people cannot therefore effectively hold their government to account, corruption will ultimately be one rampant and social decay will set in.
It human rights are continually violated, there may eventually be a total breakdown of law and order. This would be the case because people whose rights are trampled upon without anyone being made to account for such violation might want to take laws into their own hands. Of everybody should take the law into their hands, there would be total breakdown of law and order.
Also, q country that does not uphold the rights of it’s citizens would be treated as an outcast and isolated by the international community. Other countries might refuse to have any dealings with such a country either by refusing to trade with it, or engage with it in sports or cultural, political or economic activities. This would affect the country tremendously as no country is an island.
Preventing Human Rights Abuses.
Human rights are usually monitored to assess how well a government is faring. If it respects human rights, it is a good government and should be supported and encouraged. But if it Abuses human rights, the people should call for a change. To ensure that governments respect or observe human rights, these rights are usually written down in a constitution or a separate Bill of Rights.
There are government agencies or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) the monitor the observance of such rights. The performance of governments are then noted and published for everyone to know and act upon. In some instances, these non-governmental organisations are international organisations, such as Ammensty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. Others are national such as Civil Liberties Organisation, Constitutional Rights Project and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights – all in Nigeria. These organisations monitor and publish reports of human rights abuses. They also take government to court and fight for the release of innocent people being unlawfully persecuted by government for speaking the truth or criticising the government.
Done studying? Take the following questions to assess your knowledge of the lesson.
1. What do you understand by the term Human Rights?
2. Mention seven human rights as found in the Nigerian Constitution.
3. Describe ten ways by which the rights of human beings can be violated or abused.
4. State three consequences of abusing human rights.
5. Mention two ways by which the abuse of human rights can be prevented.
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