Ancient civilizations, just as they were mostly pantheist, did not pay any attention to the definite characteristic of being a human. With the advent of the monotheistic belief civilizations through the centuries have gradually come to believe that humans are way different from animals, our kingdom is separate from the whole of the animal kingdom. Notwithstanding that, humans have behaved savagely towards each other for pure delight or perhaps out of fear. It wasn’t until in the recent past when one group of people unconscientiously attempted to exterminate another group of people that the leaders of the world put their heads together to delineate a few indisputable rights of humans.
Human rights, then, is a collective noun identifying the natural condition of being a human with all one’s vulnerability. It shatters the theories of might is right, survival of the fittest, the winner takes all, the epicurean theory of pleasure as the ultimate goal of life and all those views that could have justified causing any harm to the vulnerable other.
In this way since the end of the Second World War, protection of Human Rights has been a role imposed on governments and it is legitimate for the world outside the domain of one government to interfere whenever there is any case of human rights violation. For example recently, flogging as a kind of punishment in Saudi Arabia has been abolished after tremendous pressure from the international community.
In abolishing a type of punishment there is a concurrent guarantee of protecting many rights. The idea behind public humiliation, merciless killing or corporal punishment in custody has been to silence the accused. In many cases, the individual is only a dissenter or just a criminal with private motives. In all circumstances, the dignity of a human should arguably be left intact. Penal codes should proceed from the belief that in punishing the offender, at least the instigator of the punishment is not doing any moral wrong. Human rights such as freedom of speech continues to be one of the most guaranteed rights in the world.
With time many other protections are demanded. Humans as a collective have outgrown physical combat for the distribution of territories. In its place we have devised bilateral talks. If drones are used to drop bombs in any piece of inhabited land, it is a violation of human rights. If property is destroyed as a form of protest, it is a violation of human rights. If I want to go to the cinema and my partner prevents me, it is a violation of human rights and so on.
There are several kinds of vulnerability. Imagine a muscular tiger facing a charging herd of cows. The tiger, for all its prowess, is vulnerable. This, in modern times is akin to mob lynching, slandering of famous names, downplaying the benefits of a commodity, vandalism, rioting of all types. The reverse, when a pride of lions pounce upon an antelope, is also an image of vulnerability. The antelopes move in herds but one happens to wander beyond the herd and is then attacked by the lions. This is caste discrimination, sexual abuse, verbal humiliation, social isolation and various types of psychological torture when an individual from one community lands up in the vicinity of a gang.
There’s more. Human beings are also vulnerable to diseases. It is not an attack by the tiger, but by microbes. Most of the microbes have been examined and their antidotes have been discovered. It is the duty of the governments to procure these antidotes, make them available in the right proportion and at the anticipated time to protect humans from undue death. I feel, humans have practically shooed away all the wild animals but unless we can eliminate mosquitoes from the surface of the earth, we have no right to consider the planet as under our rule.
The institution of human rights protection is manmade and applicable to everyone. It is for our good. Still, it can be argued that the onus is on the governments. It is commonly found that human rights of one or other kind are being violated by somebody or some group. Then it is the duty of the governments to penalize them, to protect the vulnerable and to maintain peace. Whenever the international community notices that it is the government itself that is violating any form of human rights, there is cause for an uproar, activism and denouncement of that government.