There is a lot of confusion surrounding the topic of human rights vs. civil rights. While there is some overlap in common usage, there are important distinctions between the two terms. This article will help you understand the differences between human rights and civil rights and identify which of these protections apply to you. 

What Is a Human Right?

Human rights are a set of principles that outline the fundamental entitlements that everyone has simply by virtue of being human. These rights are described as inalienable, which means that no government, institution, or individual can take them away or limit them.

The right to liberty, life, and security of person; freedom from slavery, torture, and arbitrary arrest; the right to a fair trial and due process of law; freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and expression; and the right to equal protection under the law are the most commonly held notions of basic human rights and human rights law.

Though not expressly stated in any single document, these rights have been codified in international law, numerous international treaties and declarations, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human being rights are also protected by national constitutions and other domestic laws in some jurisdictions.

Human rights are universal and inherent to all human beings, regardless of their legal status. No nation may rightfully deprive a person of a human right, but different nations can grant or deny different civil rights and liberties.

What Are Civil Rights?

Civil rights are legal rights that protect people from discrimination based on certain characteristics, such as race, gender, religion, sexuality, national origin, disability, and age. Discrimination is illegal under federal and state law in a variety of contexts, including employment, education, housing, and public accommodations.

In the 1950s, when large parts of the country were still racially segregated, the Civil Rights movement brought millions of Americans together to demand fundamental social and economic justice for all Americans.

The term civil rights took on a more political sense during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, though the movement was simply a demand that African-Americans be treated in a way that the Constitution already guaranteed.

The most well-known federal civil rights law is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a number of other federal and basic civil rights laws have been enacted since the Civil Rights Act to protect other groups from discriminatory practices.

These laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which forbids discrimination against people with disabilities, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which forbids discrimination against women who are pregnant, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which forbids discrimination against workers over 40.

State laws also play an important role in protecting civil rights. For example, many states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Although civil rights laws cannot ensure true equality for all, it does aid in protecting the most vulnerable members of our civil and political society, and pave the way toward a more equitable and just world.

What Is the Difference Between Human Rights and Civil Rights?

Human rights are the fundamental rights and liberties that every person in the world is entitled to from the moment of their birth until the moment of their death. They include our rights to life, liberty, and security of person, freedom from torture and degrading treatment, freedom of thought and expression, the right to work and be paid fairly, the right to an education, and many more.

Many of these rights overlap with civil rights, but they are regarded as necessary to human existence. However, some human rights become civil rights when governments choose to put those rights into national laws.

Civil rights, on the other hand, are a set of legal safeguards against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or age. Civil rights are embedded in the United States Constitution and enforced by a number of federal laws. 

We all have inalienable human rights, but each country has its own set of civil rights. However, we can’t build a better society for everyone unless we protect both human and civil rights.

What Is the Difference Between Civil Liberties and Civil Rights?

Civil liberties and civil rights tend to be confused because they both concern individual liberties; however, there is a significant difference between the two. 

Personal liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and religion, are referred to as civil liberties. In contrast, civil rights refer to the right to be treated equally under the law, regardless of race, gender, or other factors. 

All in all, civil liberties and civil rights are both necessary for a functioning democracy, but they serve different functions. Civil liberties safeguard individuals against undue government interference, whereas civil rights ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law.

What Are Civil Rights Violations?

Civil rights violations are defined as any discriminatory act that violates an individual’s constitutional civil rights. The United States Constitution and federal laws protect citizens from civil rights violations committed by state and local officials as well as private citizens and entities.

Discrimination in employment, housing, education, voting, or access to public accommodations and services are all examples of civil rights violations. Police misconduct can also be included, such as using excessive force or making false arrests.

Civil Rights Organizations

If someone’s civil or political rights are violated, there are already groups set up to defend them. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a prominent nonprofit organization that has been fighting for free speech and other civil liberties since its founding in 1920. 

The NAACP is another group that has existed since 1909 to safeguard civil rights in the United States, focusing on underrepresented minorities. One of these groups, the AFL-CIO, is the national labor union for the United States’ working class.

If you believe your civil rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Justice or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If they find evidence of discrimination, these agencies will investigate your claim and take appropriate legal action. You can also sue the person or entity you believe is responsible for the civil rights violation.

It is important to note, however, that filing a complaint or lawsuit does not guarantee that you will receive compensation. If your claim is successful, the court may order the responsible party to pay monetary damages as well as non-monetary relief, such as changing their policies or practices to avoid future civil rights violations.

Human Rights Issues in the United States

The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the principle that all people are created equal in terms of their inherent worth and rights, and the United States was one of the original signatories to this important document. However, there has been growing concern in recent years about the state of human rights in the US.

One of the most visible examples is the treatment of the country’s indigenous population. Native Americans have faced violence, displacement, and discrimination for centuries. More recently, they have been disproportionately affected by police brutality and mass incarceration.

Another significant human rights issue is racism, as African Americans have been subjected to slavery, Jim Crow laws, and mass incarceration. They continue to face discrimination in education, employment, and housing.

Furthermore, they are more likely to be targets of police violence, and the fact that many African American communities are plagued by poverty and a lack of opportunity only exacerbates the situation, making it difficult to break the cycle of disempowerment.

The United States has also been chastised by members of the human rights movement for its treatment of immigrants, with many being held in overcrowded and filthy conditions, separated from their families, and deported without due process. 

However, the US is still dedicated to protecting and promoting fundamental human rights at home and abroad, despite these obstacles.

Civil Rights Lawyer vs. Human Rights Lawyer

Despite their frequent synonymy, civil rights lawyers and human rights lawyers each have their own unique specialties and focuses. 

Civil rights lawyers typically concentrate on cases involving discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or another protected characteristic. Human rights lawyers, on the other hand, frequently work on behalf of individuals who have been victims of torture, extrajudicial killings, or other human rights violations. 

A civil rights lawyer may take on human rights cases in some cases, but the reverse is less common.

Civil Rights Lawyer

Civil rights attorneys all share a commitment to fighting discrimination and protecting the rights of marginalized groups. Some civil rights lawyers work for the government, while others work for private firms or nonprofit organizations. Some specialize in a specific area of law, such as employment or education law.

Jobs for civil rights lawyers are always in demand because of the constant need to ensure that all citizens are provided the same constitutional protections under the law.

Human Rights Lawyer

Human rights lawyers come from various backgrounds and specialize in diverse areas of law. Many human rights lawyers work for international organizations like the United Nations or Amnesty International. Others work for nongovernmental organizations that assist victims of human rights violations with legal representation.

If you want to work as a human rights lawyer, you should know that they, like civil rights lawyers, use their skills and knowledge to fight for justice and hold perpetrators accountable.

Civil vs. Human Rights: Final Thoughts

Civil rights and human rights are two distinct concepts. The rights we have as citizens of a particular country are referred to as civil rights. Human rights, on the other hand, are the rights we have simply by virtue of our humanity, regardless of our citizenship status.

While civil rights are important, human rights are even more so. This is due to the fact that human rights are fundamental to our existence, and without them, we would be unable to live dignified lives. 

Governing bodies can take away civil rights, but not human rights. As a result, it is critical that we fight for our basic rights and demand that they be respected by all.