Human rights are a relatively new concept in world history. It really wasn't until the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries when the word was defined and used in various documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.
In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which lists 27 rights that all human beings have, which includes freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement and more.
A right is simply a standard of behavior and respect that all people have on the basis that they are human beings. These rights are considered to be inalienable--that is, they cannot be taken away by anyone.
|The Cyrus Cylinder|
By Prioryman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
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Discussions of rights became a big focus of the Enlightenment and led to revolutions against absolute monarchs and the establishment of constitutional democracies.
Today, issues involving human rights are widespread. War and globalization have diminished the protection of human rights in many areas. Human rights tend to be more protected in countries that have established democracies.
Issues involving human rights are complex and varied. Below is a short list of current issues regarding human rights in the world today:
One of the biggest violations of human rights is genocide. The term was created after World War II to give a name to what occurred during the Holocaust. However, genocides--the killing of people based on religion, ethnicity or race-- has occurred throughout history. And continues to occur today.
The map below has several of the genocides of the last 100 years.
Here are some other charts relating to human rights issues: