Human rights notes

To impart the basic ideas about human rights at post graduation level. This paper provides
different aspects of human rights which includes children and women. Students can learn not only basic
rights but also can understand the duties to be carried out in the days to come.
Unit I: Introduction to Human Rights
Human rights: Meaning – Definitions – Origin and Growth of human rights in the world – Need and types
of Human Rights – UNHRC ( United Nations Human Rights Commission) – Human Rights in India.
Unit II: Classification of Human Rights
Right to liberty – Right to Life – Right to Equality – Right to dignity – Right against Exploitation –
Educational Rights – Cultural Rights – Educational Rights – Economic Rights – Political Rights – Social
Unit III: Rights of Women and Children
Rights of Women – Female feticide and Infanticide and selective abortion – Physical assault and sexual
harassment – Domestic Violence – Violence at work place – Remedial Measures
Rights of Children – Protection rights, survival rights – Participation rights – Development rights – Role
of UN on convention on rights of children
Unit IV: Multi-Dimensional aspects of Human rights
Labour rights – Bodend labour – Child Labour – Contract Labour – Migrant Labour – Domestic Women
Labour – Gender Equity – Rights of Ethnic refugees – Problems and remedies – Role of trade union in
protecting the unorganized labourers
Unit V: Grievance and Redressal Mechanism
Redressal Mechanisms at national and international levels – Structure and functions of National and State
level Human Rights Commission – constitutional remedies and directive principles of state policy.
Meaning of Human Rights
Human Rights refer to the “Basic Rights and Freedoms to which all Humans are entitled. Human
rights include Civil and Political rights, such as the right to life and freedom of expression, equality
before law, then social, cultural and economic rights including the right to participate in culture, the right
to food, the right to work, and right to education.
In India, the protection of Human Rights act 1993 defines Human rights of the individual
guaranteed by the Indian Constitution as embodied in the Fundamental rights.
Definition for Human Rights
Various definitions of human rights have been offered by different scholars, they are:
“A right is a claim recognized by society and enforced by the state”. BOSANQUET.
“Any particular right which we have, is a capacity of enjoying some particular status or employing some
particular power of action, which has been secured and guaranteed to me by law”. EARNEST BARKER.
Origin of Human Rights in the world
The emergence of rights in political thought is generally regarded as relatively recent, though any
historical study of rights reveals how indeterminate the philosophical charting of the evolution of rights
has been (Renteln, 1988). Human rights are considered the offspring of natural rights, which themselves
evolved from the concept of natural law. Natural law, which has played a dominant role in Western
political theory for centuries, is that standard of higher-order morality against which all other laws are
adjudged. To contest the injustice of human-made law, one was to appeal to the greater authority of God
or natural law.
Eventually this concept of natural law evolved into natural rights; this change reflected a shift in
emphasis from society to the individual. Whereas natural law provided a basis for curbing excessive state
power over society, natural rights gave individuals the ability to press claims against the government
(Renteln, 1988).1 The modern conception of rights can be traced back to Enlightenment political
philosophy and the movement, primarily in England, France, and the United States, to establish limited
forms of representative government that would respect the freedom of individual citizens.
John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government (1690), described a “state of nature” prior to
the creation of society in which individuals fended for themselves and looked after their own interests. In
this state, each person possessed a set of natural rights, including the rights to life, liberty and property.
According to Locke, when individuals came together in social groups, the main purpose of their union
was to secure these rights more effectively. Consequently, they ceded to the governments they established
“only the right to enforce these natural rights and not the rights themselves” (“Human Rights: Historical
Development,” n.d.).
Locke’s philosophy, known as classical liberalism, helped foster a new way of thinking about
individuals, governments, and the rights that link the two. Previously, heads of state claimed to rule by
divine right, tracing their authority through genealogy to the ultimate source to some divine being. This
was as true for Roman emperors as it was Chinese and Japanese emperors. The theory of divine right was
most forcefully asserted during the Renaissance by monarchs across Europe, most notoriously James I of
England (1566-1625) and Louis XIV of France (1638-1715).
Locke’s principles were adopted by the founding fathers of the United States in the Declaration of
Independence (1776), which stated:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed…2
The echoes of Locke are unmistakable in the language of the Declaration of Independence.
Similarly, the language used both by Locke and by the Founding Fathers clearly foreshadows the creation
of a document like the Universal Declaration. These principles were further expounded and enshrined in
the U.S. Constitution (1787) and Bill of Rights (1789).
Natural rights theorists have asserted the existence of specific rights — most notably the right to
self-preservation (Hobbes) and the right to property (Locke). Because such theorists take the validity of
fundamental rights to be self-evident, there has traditionally been little tolerance for debate. One scholar
notes that natural rights “seemed peculiarly vulnerable to ethical skepticism” (Waldron 1984: 3).
Nevertheless, natural rights were not widely contested as they were asserted in a limited universe of
shared Western values (Renteln, 1988).
Types / Kinds / Classification of Human Rights.
The many and varied rights of man are broadly classified into two categories. They are Moral and
Legal rights. The Legal rights are further divided into civil and Political rights.
Moral Rights
These rights are based on the ethical and moral section of the society and do not posses any legal
backing. This implies that they cannot be enforced through the laws of courts. The real sanction behind
the most right is the power of the society.
For example, it is one of the rights of the child that he/she should be protected by his/her parents.
If the parents do not pay due to attention to the children and thereby violate these rights, they cannot be
forced by the law to comply with his requirement.
Legal Rights
The legal rights in contrast to the Moral rights are recognized by the state and can be enforced
through the law of courts. In case there is a clash between the legal rights and moral rights, the legal
rights can be further divided into civil and political rights.
A) Civil rights
The Civil rights refer to those rights which provide conditions of civilized life. The
enjoyment of these rights facilitates the all round development of an individual’s personality. Some of
the important civil rights include Right to Live, Property right, Right to Work, Education, Speech,
Expression, Religion, Family etc. the Right to Live is the foremost human right. Life includes
livelihood and opportunities for unfolding personality. These rights are available to the citizens of
almost all the state. P.H.GREEN consider the Right to Life as the most fundamentals of all civil
B) Political rights
The Political rights refer to the privileges of citizens. Which enables to participate in the
political affairs of the state. These rights are available to the citizens alone. Mostly
political rights are available under Democratic system of government. The important
political rights include Right to Vote, Contest in Election, hold public office, Criticize the
Government etc. through the exercise of these rights the government can be made
responsible to the public opinion.
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
The core of the United Nations (UN) 2006 policy reform was the establishment of a new human
rights body. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC or Council) was created by UN
General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 3 April 2006. It came into existence to replace the much
discredited UN Commission of Human Rights (UNCHR or Commission) and “to preserve and build on
its achievements and to redress its shortcomings”. The establishment of the UNHRC was met with
enthusiasm, from both Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the majority of state delegations.
However, it is unclear if the creation of the UNHRC is a real step forward in the protection and promotion
of human rights. The following research paper will attempt to answer this question by adopting a two way
approach. Firstly, the main institutional reforms that the UNHRC is introducing to the UN human rights
machinery will be addressed and analyzed to identify whether it provides for better results. Secondly,
some of the work carried out by the UNHRC will be taken into account in order to evaluate the practical
performance of the institution. Finally, a statement based on the findings of the above analyses will be
Institutional reforms Status of UNHRC
The UNHRC was created as a subsidiary of the General Assembly, as opposed to the
Commission, which was a subsidiary of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Protection of
human rights is thus de facto promoted to one of the pillars of the UN, together with peace, security and
development, stressing the realization that the four are fundamentally interdependent. This
acknowledgement of the importance of human rights is in itself a step ahead, since all UN members that
supported resolution (170 out of 192 votes will have difficulties ignoring the new institution. The
increased authority of the main UN human rights body will give it more weigh in promotion and
protection of human rights worldwide. Moreover, the working aspects of the Commission, such as the
Special Procedures and NGO participation will be retained.
However, there were some problems. The United States and Israel were among the important
actors that voted no to the resolution (even though they promised cooperate with the UNHRC, thus
expressing their doubts about the new body. Furthermore, the US announced that, for the first time in
sixty years, it would not seek a seat on the human rights body.
It was decided that the UNHRC will be an intergovernmental body with forty seven members, six
less than the Commission. The allocation of seats responds to equitable geographic distribution criteria.
Members are elected for three years by an absolute majority of the General Assembly (96 out of 192
votes) through secret balloting . The process of electing members is significantly improved since there
threshold is significantly higher compare to that of the Commission (26 out of 52 votes from ECOSOC).
Even though this does not guarantee that only states with respectable human records will be elected, the
chance is better when more states are involved in the voting. Moreover, the secret ballot allows states to
vote honestly and without fear they might offend trading partners or allies. The option for evicting
violators from the Council is also introduced – it requires two thirds majority of the General Assembly.
With the new number and allocation of seats, however, there is one potential problem – the African and
Asian group have an absolute majority, provided they decide to work together and manipulate the agenda
and resolution adoption. Since the bulk of oppressive governments are located in Asia and Africa, this
majority might be utilized to prevent the adoption of some resolutions. Another possible issue is the fact
that it remains much more difficult to oust a violator than to elect one.
Membership criteria
New membership criteria is also adopted. Very briefly it can be summarized as: “members elected
to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”. Even
though is rather vague, considering the fact that the Commission did not have this feature at all, it can be
considered as a significant improvement, combined with the new election procedure.
However, criticism has already has been expressed over the ambiguity of the criteria. Another
potential issue is the fact that after two terms states are not eligible anymore, so there might be a deficit of
well-suited candidates after countries with respectable human rights records have already served their
permissible two terms.
Universal Periodic review
Another new mechanism, created to amend the alleged selectivity of the Commission is the
Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Under the Universal periodical review states will be reviewed for their
human rights obligations and commitments “in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and
equal treatment with respect to all States”. Under the UPR all member states will be reviewed, including
the members of the UNHRC, which will be evaluated during their term in office. The procedure by which
each state is evaluated will not be looked at in detail. However, one important factor should be
mentioned: independent human rights experts and groups, as well as NGOs are allowed to contribute to
the process.
The adoption of UPR can be seen as a significant improvement, since it guarantees that no state
will escape scrutiny, no matter if it is a member of the Council or not. Moreover, the participation of
independent experts and groups brings about the impartiality of the review. However, there is one aspect
of the UPR which is not elaborated well enough – the fact that the same time is dedicated to both
notorious violators and countries with good human rights record is inequitable.
Frequency of meetings
Major amendment is also the extension of meeting sessions from one, for the Commission, to at
least three for the Council, and from six to no less than ten weeks respectively. In addition, special
sessions can be held by the Council provided one third of its members supports the proposition. This is
clearly a positive development, since the Council will have more time on its hands to address human
rights violations, and if necessary to respond timely in the event of a crisis.
In general, the institutional reforms that UNHRC introduces in the field of human rights, although
containing some potential flaws can be considered a significant step ahead from the practices of the
Commission. However, the practical work carried out by the Council is even more important in
determining its success.
Performance of the UNHRC
This section does not deny the valuable work carried out by the Council; more, it tries to identify
if it managed to amend the flawed practices of the UNCHR. Even though the creation of the new body
was met with great expectations, it has shown some disturbing practices such as selectivity, questionable
human rights record of members and failure to address gross human rights violation.
Membership of the Council, as outlined in the resolution establishing the body, should be
characterized by high standards in human rights records. However, the current membership of the council
involves some well known violators such as Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia to name a few.
Furthermore, a research carried out by the Geneva based NGO UN Watch found out that only seven out
of the fourteen candidates (running for fourteen seats) for the period 2007 – 2010 only four are well
qualified, while the others are either questionable or not qualified. From the twenty candidates for the
period 2008 – 2011 (fifteen to be elected) twelve are qualified according to UN Watch. And from the
twenty candidates (eighteen to be elected) for the period 2009 – 2012 only seven are considered qualified.
The conclusion is that even though membership criteria and improved voting have been introduced,
violators of human rights still manage to find a seat in the Council.
Another problem that seems to persist is selectivity. The UNHRC has condemned some violators
while omitting to even mention others. The most striking example is Israel – subject of 27 out of 33 or
80% of all condemnatory resolutions. Neither mentioned any Palestinian militant groups. The
disproportionate focus on Israel was condemned by many states including the US and the EU countries.
In contrast to the focus on Israel, some pressing issues were completely disregarded. One such instance is
the failure of the Council to address the brutal handling of Iranian protestors in Teheran. Other violators
such as Sudan and Sri Lanka have been commended on their progress in human rights protection, even
though Sudan refused to grant visas of an UNHRC fact finding mission sent to investigate the Darfur
crisis. These are only a few instances in which the Council did not react, other examples are China’s
censorship, US practices in the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib prisons and other.
Despite some of the valuable work of the Council, it is showing a concerning trend of taking the
same biased and politicized decisions as its predecessor. Unless there is enough political will for change,
the UNHRC might follow the steps of the Commission.
Human Rights in India
The Constitution of India, which came into effect in 1950, incorporated “Fundamental Rights” of
the citizens.
In India, the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 defines Human Rights as the rights relating to
liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Indian Constitution as embodied in the
Fundamental Rights and the International Covenants’.0
Human rights as a concept, is the result of a historical process. In the course of that evolution,
human rights have been classified in terms of three generations. As noted by the authors of The Face of
Human Rights, “the history of human rights is reflected in their structure. The rights that have found their
way into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and human rights conventions can be divided into
several generations, according to their time of origin”.
Human rights are commonly divided into three generations:
1) First Generation {civil and political rights}
2) Second Generation {economic, social and cultural rights}
3) Third Generation {collective rights}
First Generation
The first generation refers to civil and political rights. such rights are essentially designed to
protect the individual against state interference, and are immediately applicable. They include guarantees
linked to the protection of life (such as the right to life, and the prohibition of torture and inhuman
treatment or punishment); the protection against discrimination procedural guarantees (including
guarantees of fair trial and the right to a defense); freedoms (such as freedom of movement, and freedom
of opinion) and political rights(including the right to vote and to be elected).
Second Generation
The second generation comprises economic, social, cultural rights. These rights appeared at a
slightly later stage as a response to the gradual impoverishment of individuals and class struggles of the
19th century. These rights, the fulfillment of which requires active measures, in the form of specific
legislation, policies and programmers, by States, include, economic rights such as the right to work, and
the protection of property; social rights, such as the right to health and social security; and cultural rights,
which include the right to education and to take part in cultural life.
Third Generation
The third generation of rights refers to collective rights (also known as solidarity rights). These
rights, which were conceived in the second half of the 20th century, cover the right to development,
peace, and a clean and healthy environment. However, and with the exception of the African Charter on
Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981), such rights have not yet been incorporated into any human rights
Despite the division of rights into generations, all rights should be considered to be of equal
importance and a guarantee of a life lived in dignity and respect. Indeed, this separation of rights into
different generations is, to a certain degree, artificial, especially in the case of first and second generation
rights. For instance, the right to join a trade union is usually considered a right belonging to the economic,
social and cultural generation, yet it can also be seen as a civil and political right, given its link with
freedom of association and freedom of assembly . All human rights are indivisible and interdependent;
the full enjoyment of one generation of rights is impossible without the respect and fulfillment of others.
Right to Liberty
The right to liberty can be traced back to the English Magna Charta (1215) and the United States
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789). Even though the Magna Charta only guaranteed
rights to a limited group of people, namely feudal noblemen, it nevertheless required that arrest or
detention be lawful, and protected the individual against the excesses of his/her ruler. Protection against
arbitrary arrest and detention as one of the main dimensions of the right to the liberty of the person was
further established in the 17th century Bill of Rights (1689) and Habeas Corpus Acts (1640, 1679). The
right was further developed and its scope of application widened after the French Revolution, in the
French Declaration of Rights (1789) where the right to liberty was guaranteed to all nationals in the
constitutions of national states. The right to liberty played a major role in the Mexican revolution (1915)
where ‘land and liberty’ (Tierra y Libertad) was the slogan of the revolution.
At the international level, the right to liberty and security of the person found its first legal
formulation in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration. The article prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention or
exile by means of a short and vague provision, but it has since been further elaborated upon by a number
of international human rights instruments at the international and the regional level.
The right to liberty and security of the person, as the title suggests, entails two distinct rights: the
right to liberty of the person and the right to personal security. In order to clarify how these two rights are
understood under human rights law, a short description of each right follows.
The right to liberty of the person, as found in international human rights instruments, does not
grant complete freedom from arrest or detention. Deprivation of liberty is a legitimate form of state
control over persons within its jurisdiction. Instead, the right to liberty acts as a substantive guarantee that
arrest or detention will not be arbitrary or unlawful. In general, any deprivation of liberty is only allowed
if it is carried out in accordance with a procedure established by domestic law and if the following
minimum guarantees are respected: a) every detained person shall be informed promptly of the reasons
for her/his arrest; b) every detained person shall be entitled to take habeas corpus proceedings before a
court (which has to decide without delay and order release if the detention is unlawful); c) every detained
person has an enforceable right to compensation if detention was unlawful; and d) persons held in custody
shall be brought promptly, that is within a few days, before a judge who must either release them or
authorise pre-trial detention. They are entitled to trial within a reasonable time and to release in exchange
for bail or some other guarantee to appear for trial. In other words, pre-trial detention shall not be the
general rule and shall be as short as possible, depending on the complexity of the case.
The right to personal security has not been defined as clearly as the right to liberty and the
meaning of this right differs in the different human rights Conventions. Under the ICCPR, which gives it
the broadest meaning, the right to personal security is understood as the right to the protection of the law
in the exercise of the right to liberty. This means that the right to security extends to situations other than
the formal deprivation of liberty. For instance a state may not ignore a known threat to the life of a person
under its jurisdiction; it has an obligation to take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect that
Right to Life
1. Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save
in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which the penalty is
provided by law.
2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results
from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
• in defence of any person from unlawful violence
• in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained, and
• in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.
Right to Dignity
In classical Moral, ethical, legal, and political discussions the concept of dignity expresses the idea
that a being has the right to be valued and respected, and to be treated ethically. In the modern context,
dignity can function as an extension of the Enlightenment-era concepts of inherent, inalienable rights.
Human dignity can be violated in multiple ways. The main categories of violations are:
Violations of human dignity in terms of humiliation refer to acts that humiliate or diminish the
self-worth of a person or a group. Acts of humiliation are context dependent but we normally have an
intuitive understanding where such a violation occurs. As Schachter noted, “it has been generally
assumed that a violation of human dignity can be recognized even if the abstract term cannot be defined.
‘I know it when I see it even if I cannot tell you what it is’”. More generally, etymology of the word
“humiliation” has a universal characteristic in the sense that in all languages the word involves
“downward spatial orientation” in which “something or someone is pushed down and forcefully held
there”. This approach is common in judicial decisions where judges refer to violations of human dignity
as injuries to people’s self-worth or their self-esteem.
Instrumentalization or objectification
This aspect refers to treating a person as an instrument or as means to achieve some other goal.
This approach builds on Immanuel Kant’s moral imperative stipulating that we should treat people as ends
or goals in themselves, namely as having ultimate moral worth which should not be instrumentalized.
Violations of human dignity as degradation refer to acts that degrade the value of human beings.
These are acts that, even if done by consent, convey a message that diminishes the importance or value of
all human beings. They consist of practices that human beings should not be subjected to, regardless of
whether subjective humiliation is involved, such as selling oneself to slavery, or when a state authority
deliberately puts prisoners in inhuman living conditions.
These are acts that strip a person or a group of their human characteristics. It may involve
describing or treating them as animals or as a lower type of human beings. This has occurred in genocides
such as the Holocaust and in Rwanda where the minority were compared to insects.
Right against Exploitation
The right against exploitation is one of the most important fundamental rights given by the
These rights aim at protecting citizens from being subjugated to environmental, domestic and work
Article 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution safeguard women and children and others against
exploitation of various forms
Article 23:Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour.
Article 24:Prohibition of employment of children in factories etc. No child below the age of 14yrs shall
be employed to work in any factor or in any other hazardous employment.
Right to Education
▪ Everyone has the right to education. Education must be free, at least in elementary and
fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.
▪ Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall
be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
▪ Education shall be directed to full development of human personality and to strengthening of
respect for human rights and fundamental freedom.

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
[Indian constitution, Article 21{A}, UDHR Article 26]
Cultural Rights
The international covenant on Economic, social, and cultural rights is consist of 31 articles which are
divided into five parts. Part I deals with the rights of peoples to self-determination. Then there are some
articles which are given below that deals with economic, social, cultural rights of covenants are included
in part III.
1. Right to work. (Article 6).
2. Right to just and favorable conditions of work. (Article 7).
3. Right to form and join trade unions. (Article 8).
4. Right to social security. (Article 9).
5. Right related to motherhood and childhood, marriage and the family. (Article 10).
6. Right to adequate food, clothing, housing and standard of living and freedom from hunger.
(Article 11).
7. Right to physical and mental health. (Article 12).
8. Right to education including a plan for implementing compulsory primary education. (Article 13).
Economic Rights
Economic rights are refer to those rights are related to economic condition of a Human in the
society. Economic needs are right to work, right to education etc.
Right to Work:- (Article 6(1)).
1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of
work and to protection against unemployment.
2. The state parties to the present covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of
everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and
will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.
[Indian constitution Article 41, UDHR Article 23(1)]
Right to Adequate Wages:- (Article 7(a) (i)).
1. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
2. Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in
particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with
equal pay for equal work.
[Indian Constitution Article 39(d), UDHR Article 23(2)]
Right to Reasonable Hours of Work:- (Article 7 (b)).
1. In this right the employee has the safe and Healthy Working Condition.
2. The government may fix minimum hours of works. They are a) fix the number of hours of work to
constitute the normality. B) provide work for 7 days a week.
[Indian Constitution Article 42].
Right to Fair Working Conditions:- (Article 7 (d)).
1. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of Working hours and
periodic holidays with pay.
2. Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as
remuneration for public holidays.
[Indian Constitution Article 42, UDHR Article 24].
Political Rights
The covenants on Civil and Political rights consists of 53 articles and is divided into six parts. Article
1 refers to the rights of people to self-determination. There are some articles deals with this they are given
below. They are
1) The right to life. (Article 6)
2) Freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment. (Article 7).
3) Freedom from slavery, servitude and forced labour. (Article 8).
4) Right to Liberty and security. (Article 9).
5) Right of detenue to be treated with humanity. (Article 10).
6) Freedom from imprisonment for inability to fulfill a contractual obligation. (Article 11).
7) Freedom of movement and to choose his residence. (Article 12).
8) Freedom of aliens from arbitrary expulsion. (Article 13).
9) Right to fair trial. (Article 14).
10) Non-retroactive application of criminal law. (Article 15).
11) Right to recognition as a person before the law. (Article 16).
12) Right to privacy, family, home or correspondent. (Article 17).
13) Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. (Article 18).
14) Freedom of opinion and expression. (Article 19).
15) Prohibition of propaganda of wars. (Article 20).
16) Right of peaceful assembly. (Article 21).
17) Freedom of association. (Article 22).
18) Right to marry and found a family. (Article 23).
19) Rights of the child. (Article 24).
20) Right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and to be elect. (Article 25).
21) Equality before the law. (Article 26).
22) Rights to minorities. (Article 27).
Social Rights
Social rights guaranteed by ordinary legislation include the benefits specified in the social security
legislation implemented by Kela. The Constitution guarantees economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights,
such as the right to work, education, indispensable subsistence and care, social security and adequate
social, health and medical services, which the authorities are required to guarantee and promote. The
protection offered by some other provisions on fundamental rights, such as equal treatment, equality,
good administration and due process, extends also to ESC rights.
Out of the human rights treaties which have been implimented nationally and which are binding
on Finland, the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the
European Social Charter specifically guarantee ESC rights, such as the right to work, good health,
housing and social security. In addition, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also include provisions which are important
with regard to social rights, such as provisions on discrimination and fair trial. Ensuring that social rights
are fulfilled is primarily the responsibility of the Parliament. The Parliament shall issue the necessary
legislation for the fulfilment of social rights.
Rights of Women
Women’s rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls worldwide, and
formed the basis for the women’s rights movement in the nineteenth century and feminist movement
during the 20th century. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local
custom, and behavior, whereas in others they are ignored and suppressed. They differ from broader
notions of human rights through claims of an inherent historical and traditional bias against the exercise
of rights by women and girls, in favor of men and boys.
Issues commonly associated with notions of women’s rights include, though are not limited to, the
right: to bodily integrity and autonomy; to be free from sexual violence; to vote; to hold public office; to
enter into legal contracts; to have equal rights in family law; to work; to fair wages or equal pay; to have
reproductive rights; to own property; to education.
Female Feticide
The patriarchal social structure in India and the society’s preference towards a male child is the
major reason behind female foeticide. To carry forward the generation, families in general prefer the birth
of sons over daughters. The male child is also required by the Hindu family to perform the last rites of
father in the absence of which, it is believed that the father would not attain salvation after death.
Female Feticide and Selective Abortion
Female feticide takes place when a foetus is aborted after it is determined to be female. Under this
illegal practice, the sex of the unborn child is determined by using the technique of ultrasound and if it
happens to be a female foetus, it is aborted through medicine or surgery. It is one of the most rampant
social evils in the country. It is rooted in the patriarchal mindset where boys are preferred over girls for
various irrational reasons, not only in rural but urban areas too. We have to raise awareness levels against
the regressive practice of female feticide, enforce laws far more stringently and provide much more
incentives to the households for the birth of a girl child.
Menace of dowry
In most traditional, conservative families, a girl child is more or less considered a liability or a
burden, due to the frequent demands of huge sum in the form of dowry at the time of her marriage. On the
other hand, it is seen that the father of the male child bargains very hard to maximize the benefits of
marriage for his son. Though the parents have to face similar ordeals in getting their kids educated and
settled in their lives, whether they are boys or girls, however, the mindset inclined towards the baby boy
refuses to go, giving way to killing of female foetuses.
Sex determination tests put to wrong use
With the progress of science and technology, it is quite easy to find out the gender of the foetus.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous medical practitioners are also found to be increasingly involved in the
illegal trade of carrying out sex-determination tests and later complying with the wishes of the parents for
abortion of the foetus, if it is found out to be female.
Female Infanticide
Female infanticide is the deliberate killing of newborn female children. In countries with a history
of female infanticide, the modern practice of sex-selective abortion is often discussed as a closely related
issue. Female infanticide is a major cause of concern in several nations such as China, India and Pakistan.
It has been argued that the “low status” in which women are viewed in patriarchal societies creates a bias
against females.
In 1978, anthropologist Laila Williamson, in a summary of data she had collated on how
widespread infanticide was among both tribal and developed, or “civilized” nations, found that infanticide
had occurred on every continent and was carried out by groups ranging from hunter gatherers to highly
developed societies and that rather than this practice being an exception, it has been commonplace.The
practice has been well documented among the indigenous peoples of Australia, Northern Alaska and
South Asia, and Barbara Miller argues the practice to be “almost universal”, even in the West. Miller
contends that in regions where women are not employed in agriculture and regions in which dowries are
the norm then female infanticide is commonplace, and in 1871 in The Descent of Man, and Selection in
Relation to Sex, Charles Darwin wrote that the practice was commonplace among the aboriginal tribes of
In 1990, Amartya Sen writing in the New York Review of Books estimated that there were 100
million fewer women in Asia than would be expected, and that this amount of “missing” women “tell[s]
us, quietly, a terrible story of inequality and neglect leading to the excess mortality of women.” Initially
Sen’s suggestion of gender bias was contested and it was suggested that hepatitis B was the cause of the
alteration in the natural sex ratio. However it is now widely accepted that the numerical worldwide deficit
in women, is due to gender specific abortions, infanticide and neglect.
In seventh-century Arabia, before Islamic culture became established, female infanticide was
widely practiced. This is attributed by scholars to the fact that women were deemed “property” within
those societies. Others have speculated that to prevent their daughters from a life of misery, the mothers
would kill the child. With the arrival of Islamic rule the practice was made illegal.
Physical Assault and Sexual Harassment
Every second girl in the world has to face such situations daily. One of the difficulties in
understanding sexual harassment is that it involves a range of behavior, and is often difficult for the
recipient to describe to themselves, and to others, exactly what they are experiencing. Moreover, behavior
and motives vary between individual harassers.
Effects of sexual harassment can vary depending on the individual, and the severity and duration
of the harassment. Often, sexual harassment incidents fall into the category of the “merely annoying.”
However, many situations can, and do, have life-altering effects particularly when they involve
severe/chronic abuses, and/or retaliation against a victim who does not submit to the harassment, or who
complains about it openly. Indeed, psychologists and social workers report that severe/chronic sexual
harassment can have the same psychological effects as rape or sexual assault.
Sexual harassment is illegal. If a girl is being harassed then she need not to be afraid but try to
fight against it and get the harasser punished. If she is being sexually harassed then she should tell
someone who could help her. She could opt for following steps:
Complaint the Authority:Â File a written or verbal complaint to the highest authority like the
principal, teacher, manager, boss or your parents specifying the whole situation with accurate time and
date. If possible, show the proofs, like a letter or any slip.
File a Complaint With a Government Agency: In India there are not many laws regarding the same.
Those found guilty can be punished under section 294 and sec 509 of IPC. Recently, in 2006, Sexual
Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2006 has been passed.
According to India’s constitution, sexual harassment infringes the fundamental right of a woman
to gender equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and live with dignity
under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Even after so many efforts of the Government of India the cases for sexual harassment have seen
no decline. The people who are assigned for our help, that is the cops and Government employees, are
now themselves are seen as harassers in many cases. The provisions contain several loopholes which can
be exploited easily by the harasser in his favor. Clearly the provisions and laws need to be more
comprehensive to provide a means of justice to those who have been victims and a means of protection
for those who could be potential victims.
Domestic Violence
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of India
enacted to protect women from domestic violence. It was brought into force by the Indian government
from 26 October 2006. The Act provides for the first time in Indian law a definition of “domestic
violence”, with this definition being broad and including not only physical violence, but also other forms
of violence such as emotional/verbal, sexual, and economic abuse. It is a civil law meant primarily for
protection orders and not meant to penalize criminally. The act does not extend to Jammu and Kashmir,
which has its own laws, and which enacted in 2010 the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Women from
Domestic Violence Act, 2010.
Violence at Work Place
Recently, matters of workplace harassment have gained interest among practitioners and
researchers as it is becoming one of the most sensitive areas of effective workplace management. In Asian
countries, it attracted lots of attention from researchers and governments since the 1980s, because a
significant source of work stress is associated with aggressive behaviors at workplace. Third world
countries are far behind Asian countries in that there are limited efforts to investigate the questions on
workplace harassment. It is almost unseen and the executive leaders (managers) are almost reluctant or
unconscious about it in the third world countries. Under occupational health and safety laws around the
world, workplace harassment and workplace bullying are identified as being core psychosocial hazards.
Remedial Measures
Recommendations for Combating Violence Against Women
Mental illness
Psychiatric illness should be identified and treated promptly. Patients with active symptoms should be
kept in a protected environment till substantial improvement takes place. Many patients may need lifelong protection e.g. those suffering from mental retardation or chronic schizophrenia.
Women with severe mental illness need special attention. Public awareness needs to be created with
respect to the following:
➢ Women need protection but those with mental illness need more care and protection.
➢ The real problem is not mental illness, but the negative attitude toward it.
➢ Many medical illnesses create more problems in marriage, than mental illnesses.
➢ There should no double standard? If a woman can continue the marriage after her husband
develops a mental illness, so can the husband. Similarly, people should be made to understand that
if it is right to marry a son or daughter with mental illness, then the reverse is also true. A daughter
in-law with mental illness should also be accepted.
➢ Good family support greatly improves the prognosis.
➢ Many women with mental illness prove to be better marriage partners and daughter-in-laws than
those without mental illness.
➢ If the husband’s family accepts the woman with mental illness, the society will also follow
➢ Woman with mental illness should be accepted with her illness.
➢ Violence is not the solution. Mental illness in the victim (e.g. depression) or perpetrator (e.g.
alcoholism or schizophrenia) should be promptly treated.
Restriction on use of alcohol
There should be prohibition of alcohol use in mass gatherings in institutions, public places like
trains and buses. The number of alcohol outlets should be decreased. The age for purchasing alcohol may
be raised to 30 years. Special checks on festive occasions are recommended with the help of breath
analyzers. Involuntary treatment of persons with alcohol dependence should be carried out.
Control on media
Sexual material should be censored. Good themes, which condemn violence and glorify
rehabilitation of the victim, should be projected. Ban on pornography should be strictly implemented. The
sites may be blocked.
Marriage of boys and girls should preferably be in early 20s, as soon as feasible, so that sexual
needs could be satisfied in a socially appropriate manner.
Strengthening the institution of marriage
Strong marital bond would act as a deterrent. The “Shiv-Parvati” model should be promoted for
Law enforcement
Efficient and accountable law enforcement machinery at all levels (administration, government,
police and judiciary) is needed.
Legislation – Change in mind set of the judiciary
This is the need of the day. Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General of India, aptly stated “It’s
time for India’s courts to gaze inward and throw out deeply embedded patriarchal notions that stop
judgments from being fair to women. Sexism within the system has to go before it does more damage in
the country.”[44] A High Court judge in Orissa in his judgment once famously held “It was not possible
for a man, acting alone, to rape a woman in good health.”[44]
Amendments in existing legislations
The Hindu Marriage Act (1955):[45] Mental illness may be removed from conditions of Hindu
marriage. Not informing about past illness of mental illness should not be a ground for nullity of
PWDVA, 2005 and DPA, 1961: Assessment for mental illness may be incorporated in the code
civil procedure so that the mental illness is identified in the victim (woman) and/or perpetrator (male
relative) and promptly treated. This way violence can be prevented.
New legislations
New legislation is needed to provide for granting “Interim Relief” (A big sum of money that is
paid by the perpetrator) to a victim of severe sexual assault. The money may be utilized for rehabilitation
of the victim. Rehabilitation of the victims of brutal sexual assaults should be the State’s responsibility.
The legislation should provide for enhanced punishment for violence perpetrated against women with
mental illness.
Appropriate application of laws in the setting of mental illness
This is often very difficult, nevertheless very important. Judiciary handling such cases should
desirably have both legal (LLB) as well as medical (MD Psychiatry/DPM) qualifications.
Code of conduct
Code of conduct at work place, school and home, with respect to interaction with persons of
opposite sex should be outlined and implemented.
Gender sensitization
Gender sensitization by parents and teachers is needed regarding the sensitivities and boundaries
of man-woman relationships.
Education and employment
Improvement in quality of education and employment opportunities for youth.
Recreation and talent
Recreational avenues and opportunities for talent development in young people.
Moral and religious values
Parents and teachers should strive to infuse good moral and religious values in children and serve
as role models.
Population control
Last, but not the least, If we are sincere we will get the results. Let us all say “No” to violence
against women.
Childrens’ Rights
Children’s rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special
protection and care afforded to minors.[1] The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines
a child as “any human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child,
majority is attained earlier.”[2] Children’s rights includes their right to association with both parents,
human identity as well as the basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education,
health care, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of
the child’s civil rights, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child’s race, gender, sexual
orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, color, ethnicity, or other characteristics.
Interpretations of children’s rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the
enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what
constitutes “abuse” is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing.
Universally child rights are defined by the United Nations and United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child (UNCRC). According to the UNCRC Child Rights are minimum entitlements and
freedoms that should be afforded to all persons below the age of 18 regardless of race, colour, gender,
language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to all people
everywhere. The UN finds these rights interdependent and indivisible, meaning that a right can not be
fulfilled at the expense of another right.
The purpose of the UNCRC is to outline the basic human rights that should be afforded to
children. There are four broad classifications of these rights. These four categories cover all civil,
political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child.
Right to Survival: A child’s right to survival begins before a child is born. According to
Government of India, a child life begins after twenty weeks of conception. Hence the right to survival is
inclusive of the child rights to be born, right to minimum standards of food, shelter and clothing, and the
right to live with dignity.
Right to Protection: A child has the right to be protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse at
home, and elsewhere.
Right to Participation: A child has a right to participate in any decision making that involves
him/her directly or indirectly. There are varying degrees of participation as per the age and maturity of the
Right to Development: Children have the right to all forms of development: Emotional, Mental
and Physical. Emotional development is fulfilled by proper care and love of a support system, mental
development through education and learning and physical development through recreation, play and
Role of UN Convention on Children’s’ Rights
Over history there have been a number of international treaties and documents that outline the
rights of a child. Prior to World War II the League of Nations had adopted the Geneva Declaration of the
Rights of the Child in 1924. The United Nations (UN) took its first step towards declaring the importance
of child rights by establishing the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund in 1946 (The
name was shortened to United Nations Children’s Fund in 1953, but kept the popular acronym UNICEF).
Two years later the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making it
the first UN document to recognise children’s need for protection.
The first UN document specially focused on child rights was the Declaration on the Rights of the
Child, but instead of being a legally binding document it was more like a moral guide of conduct for
governments. It was not until 1989 that the global community adopted the United Nations Convention on
the Rights of the Child, making it the first international legally binding document concerning child rights.
The convention consists of 54 articles covering all four major categories of child rights: Right to life,
Right to development, Right to protection, and Right to participation. It came into force on the 2nd
September 1990.
The initiative to create a body of rights for children came from the draft document submitted by
the Government of Poland to the Commission on human rights in 1978. A decade was spent drafting the
Convention by an alliance of a number of small NGOs including Radda Barnen of Sweden, the
International Child Catholic Bureau, and Defence for Children International, and United Nations human
rights experts. Today the convention has been ratified by 192 countries becoming the most ratified of all
international Human Rights treaties. India signed and ratified the convention in 1992. The only two
countries who have not ratified the treaty are the United States and Somalia. Somalia has been unable to
ratify due to the lack of a stable government and the US has signed the treaty showing their intention to
Following is an overview of the convention.
Preamble: Recognises many of the principles outlines in the Declaration on the Rights of the
Child such as family as the best environment for a child to grow, the importance of child protection, best
interest of the child, recognising child participation, etc.
Article 1: According to the convention a child is any person how has not reached the age of
eighteen unless a different age of maturity is specified in any country’s law.
Article2: It is the duty of the state (each country) to uphold the articles in the convention and
apply it to all children regardless of the child’s or the family’s race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status. The
state should protect the child against all forms of discrimination.
Article 3: the state will always act in the best interest of the child while taking into consideration
the rights and duties of the guardians. The state shall ensure all institutions government or not adhere to
this dictum.
Article 4: The state must make laws, implement policies and programmes and undertake other
measures to unsure the rights set out in the convention are fulfilled.
Article 5: The state will keep in mind the rights of the guardians of the child or any other family
member or community as in accordance with local customs
Article 6: States recognise that every child has the inherent right to life, and must work to ensure
the survival and development of the child.
Article 7: Every child has the right to a name, birth registration and nationality. As far as possible
every child has the right to know and be cared for by his/her parents. The state should make laws and
provisions especially for stateless children.
Article 8: A child has the right to preserve his/her identity including nationality, name and family
relations without unlawful interference.
Article 9: Every child has the right not to be separated from their parents against his/her will
unless it is in his/her best interest. Any legal proceeding of separation shall be attended by all involved
parties including the parents. The right has the right to maintain contact with his/her parent as long as it’s
not against his/her best interest. If the state is the cause of separation than the parents, child or any other
family member has the right to know the whereabouts of the absent member.
Article 10: Every child and family has the right to enter or leave a state at any time they wish as
long as it is in accordance with the laws of each state. If a child is in the different state as the parents the
child has the right to maintain contact with his/her parent as long as it’s not against his/her best interest
Article 11: The state shall combat child trafficking.
Article 12: The state shall ensure the child’s right to form and express views with regard to things
that affect him/her in accordance with the maturity and age of the child. A child shall hence we allowed to
be heard in any judicial proceeding concerning the child directly or indirectly through a representative
Article 13: Children have a right to free expression and this includes right to information and
ideas of all kinds and in any medium. This is only restricted by the violation of others rights or a threat to
national security.
Article 14: Every child has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The state
must respect the parents’ right to guide the child in this regard. Freedom to manifest ones religion is only
restricted if the act is harmful to others.
Article 15: Every child has the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly unless the
act is illegal or harmful to others.
Article 16: Children have the right to privacy and the right to be protected by law against such
interference of attacks
Article 17: The state shall ensure that a child has access to national and international information
that is aimed at the child’s well being. For example they may encourage mass media to produce
programmes that are informational for children and encourage the production of children’s books and
Article 18: The state shall ensure the recognition of responsibility of both parents to care for a
child as long as it is in her/his best interest. The state shall give appropriate guidance and assistance to
parents to uphold the rights of the child. Children of working parents have the right to access child-care
Article 19: The state shall take all types of actions to protect the child from any form of abuse,
exploitation or neglect. The state shall create system to ensure the child receives all needed support in
form of prevention, protection and rehabilitation.
Article 20: Children have the right to protection by the state when they temporarily or
permanently deprived of their family environment or if the environment has proven to be harmful for
them. The state shall find alternate care for the child such as foster care, adoption or kafalah of Islamic
law. The cultural, linguistic and religious background of the child should be continued as far as possible.
Article 21: All states shall permit and recognise the process of adoption. Adoption will be carried
out only by a competent authority who will sure the adoption is permissible. Inter-country adoption will
be permitted as an alter form of care only if that care cannot be provided for in the child’s own country.
The state must ensure that inter-country adoption does not result in financial gain, and that both national
and international adoption is held to the same safeguards and standards.
Article 22: Children seeking refugee status and recognised as refuges with or without their
parents shall be granted such a status by the state and have the same rights as all children in accordance
with this convention and any other human rights treaty. The state shall with the assistance of other
international bodies try and reunite the child with his family or provide the child with the appropriate
Article 23: States recognise that children with disabilities (mental or physical) have the right to a
life with dignity and all other rights of this convention. The State also recognises the need to provide
children with disabilities with special care, family assistance, free education, health, training, etc in
accordance with the family’s financial situation and aim for the child’s social integration. The state shall
also take measure to prevent the disabilities in children.
Article 24: Every child has the right to access health services and attain the highest degree of
health. To do so the state shall reduce the infant mortality rate, ensure medical assistance, provide
prenatal and post natal care of mothers and child, combat diseases and malnutrition, create awareness of
correct health practises, and development preventive measure to protect children from possible risks. The
state shall also abolish all traditional practises detrimental to a child’s health.
Article 25: All treatments administered to children are subject to periodic review.
Article 26: Every child has the right to social security and social insurance. Benefits under state
laws should take into account the economic and social needs of the families.
Article 27: Every child has the right to a standard of living required for his/her development.
Parents have the duty to ensure this standard to the best of their ability. The state shall assist parents or
others responsible for the child who require the help, and secure the maintenance of the child from those
financially responsible within the state or abroad.
Article 28: All children have the right to education. The state shall endeavour to provide free
primary education, encourage different forms of secondary education, make higher forms of education
accessible, make vocational information available and encourage school retention and prevent drop outs.
School discipline should not be in violation of child rights.
Article 29: Child education should be geared towards the complete development of the child, in
accordance with the child’s cultural identity and human rights treaties, and to prepare the child for
responsible life in society. It should not be detrimental to the environment. People may be allowed to
establish educational institutes in accordance with these standards.
Article 30: Children of minority communities have the right to practise and adopt the culture,
languages and traditions of their community.
Article 31: Every child has the right to leisure, play and participation in cultural events. The state
should encourage child participation in such events.
Article 32: Children have the right to be protected from economic exportation or any work that is
harmful to their physical and mental development or considered hazardous or dangerous work. The state
must constitute a day that dictates minimum age of employment, conditions of employment and hours of
employment with regards to children.
Article 33: The state should take measure to protect children from substance abuse and prevent
the use of children in the illegal trafficking of such substances.
Article 34: Every child has the right to be protected from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
The state must hence prevent the coercion and prostitution of children for such activities as well as
safeguard children from pornographic performances and materials.
Article 35: States shall take measure to prevent the abduction or sale of children for any purpose.
Article 36: The state shall protect children against any other form of exploitation.
Article 37: The state shall ensure that no child is subject to torture or any other cruel inhuman
treatment, no child is deprived of his liberty unlawfully, and a child deprived of his liberty is entitled to
proper care and humane circumstances, and be provided with legal consult if necessary.
Article 38: The state ensures and respects the rules of humanitarian law during times of conflict.
The state should also ensure that children below 15 do no participate in the hostilities, and refrain from
recruiting them in armed forces.
Article 39: The state should ensure the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of child victims
of neglect, exploitation, or abuse, etc.
Article 40: The state shall recognise the right of every child who has committed a crime under the
law to a proper care and reintegration into society. No child shall be accused or penalised for an act which
is not a recognised crime. A child who has been accused of a crime are presumed innocent, should be
informed of the charges against him/her, have the juvenile justice proceeding immediately without delay,
not be compelled to give testimony or admit guilt and the right to privacy of all proceedings. States
should endeavour to establish laws specifically catered to the needs of children who have been accused or
found guilty of any criminal activity and establish a minimum age of guilt.
Article 41: The articles of this convention will not take priority over any laws national or
intentional that better safeguard the rights of a child.
Articles 42-54: outline the establishment, composition and responsibilities of the Committee on
the Rights of the Child.
Labour Rights as Human Rights
Bonded Labour and Human Rights
Debt bondage has been defined by the United Nations as a form of “modern day slavery” and is
prohibited by international law. It is specifically dealt with by Article 1(a) of the United Nations 1956
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery. It persists nonetheless especially in developing
nations, which have few mechanisms for credit security or bankruptcy, and where fewer people hold
formal title to land or possessions. According to some economists, for example Hernando de Soto, this is
a major barrier to development in those countries – entrepreneurs do not dare take risks and cannot get
credit because they hold no collateral and may burden families for generations to come.
Where children are forced to work because of debt bondage of the family, this is considered not
only child labor, but a worst form of child labor in terms of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention,
1999 of the International Labour Organization.
Despite the UN prohibition, Anti-Slavery International estimates that “between 10 and 20 million people
are being subjected to debt bondage today.”
Some International Human Rights Conventions
The practice of bonded labour violates the following International Human Rights Conventions
whereas India is a party to all of them and such is legally bound to comply with their terms. They are:
➢ Convention on the Suppression of Slave Trade and Slavery, 1926;
➢ Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and
Practices Similar to Slavery Trade, 1956;
➢ Forced Labour Convention, 1930;
➢ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966;
➢ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ECOSOC), 1966;
➢ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989
C) Law and Issues Related to Bonded Labour in India
Bonded labour is widely prevalent in many regions in India. The main feature of the system is that
the debtor pledges his person or that a member of his family for a loan and is released on the repayment
of the debt.
Bonded labour is referred to by different names in different regions. The Elayaperumal Committee
mentions the following:
➢ Gothi in Orissa;
➢ Machindari in Madya Pradesh;
➢ Sagri in Rajasthan;
➢ Vet Begar and Salbandi in Maharastha;
➢ Jana, Manihi or Ijhari in Jammu and Kashmir;
➢ Jeetha in Mysore;
➢ Vetti in Tamil Nadu;
➢ Kamiya or Kuthiya in Chattisgarh.
In the beginning of the twentieth century the system combined the elements of exploitation,
patronage and protection at least in some regions. But with increasing trend towards the money-economy
and changes in the types of use to which agricultural land is put, the element of patronage disappeared
and that of exploitation persisted.
Some related Legal Provisions regarding to bonded labour, namely:
The Constitution of India, 1950
Preamble: The Constitution of India guarantees all citizen social, economic and political justice, freedom
of thought and expression, equality of status and opportunity and fraternity assuring dignity of the
Fundamental Rights Part – III of the Constitution
Article 14, 15 and 16: These articles guarantee equality and equal treatment;
Article 19(1) (g): The article guarantees freedom of trade and profession;
Article 21: The article guarantees right to life and liberty;
Article 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour – Traffic in human beings and
begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall
be an offence punishable in accordance with law. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from
imposing compulsory service for public purposes, and in imposing such service the State shall not make
any discrimination on grounds only on religion, race, caste or class or any of them.
Article 24: The article prohibits the employment of children whether as bonded labour or
otherwise. Together, Article 23 and Article 24 are place under the heading “Right against Exploitation”,
one of India’s constitutionally proclaimed fundamental rights.
Directive Principles of State Policy – Part –IV of the Constitution:
The Directive Principles directs the State to strive to secure, inter alia: (a) Just and human
conditions of work (Article 42); (b) Educational and economic interest of the Scheduled Caste and
Scheduled Tribe and other weaker section of the society (Article 46).
Under Article 42. Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief – The
State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
Under Article 43. Living wage, etc. for workers – The State shall endeavour to secure, by suitable
legislation or economic organization or in any other way, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or
otherwise, work and living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment
of leisure and social and cultural opportunities and, in particular the State shall endeavour to promote
cottage industrial on an individual or co-operative basis in rural areas.
D) Indian Penal Code, 1860
E) Section 374. Unlawful compulsory labour – Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labour
against the will of that person, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a
term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both, also;
Child Labour – Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933:
Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 says that unless there is something repugnant in the
subject or context – “an agreement of pledging the labour of child” means an agreement written or oral,
express or implied, whereby the parent or guardian of a child, in return for any payment or benefit
received or to be received by him, undertakes to cause or allow the services of the child to be utilized in
any employment. Provided that any agreement made without detriment to a child, and not made in
consideration of any benefit other than reasonable wages to be paid for the child’s services and terminable
at not more than a weeks notice, is not an agreement within the meaning of this definition. It also says
that “Whoever, being the parent or guardian of a child, makes an agreement to pledge the labour of that
child, shall be punished with fine which may extend up to fifty rupees”.
Based on those provisions, the system of bonded labour is thus totally incompatible with the aim
of an egalitarian socio-economic order under the Constitution of India. The system is also an infringement
of the basic human rights and destruction of the dignity of human labour.
In order to give effect to the constitutional prohibition of bonded labour as specified under Article
23 of Indian Constitution, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act was passed in 1976.
Labour Rights and the Indian Constitution
The constitution of India confers innumerable rights for the protection of labour. Indian
constitution through various articles protects, supports, and acts as a guideline to various labour laws for
their effective implementation and functioning.
The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the
interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in Chapter- III (Articles 16, 19, 21, 23 & 24) and
Chapter IV (Articles 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43A, 46, 47 & 54) of the Constitution of India keeping in line
with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy1 which set an aim to which the
activities of the state are to be guided.
These Directive Principles provide: • for securing the health and strength of employees, men and
women; • that the tender age of children are not abused; • that citizens are not forced by economic
necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength; • just and humane conditions of work and
maternity relief are provided; and • That the Government shall take steps, by suitable legislation or in any
other way, to secure the participation of employee in the management of undertakings, establishments or
other organisations engaged in any industry. Labour is a concurrent subject in the Constitution of India.
Indian Const governments are competent to legislate on labour matters and administer the same.
The bulk of important legislative acts have been enacted by the Parliament. Indian Constitution
through various articles provides the labour rights. Though not directly but indirectly the articles protects
the labour rights. Article 14 of the constitution of India provides the concept of Equality before law. The
concept of equality is truly stated by Dr. Jennings with the words, “Equality before the law means that
among equals the law should be equal and should be equally administered, that like should be treated
In the case of Randhir Singh V. Union of India 2 , the Supreme Court held that though the
principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ is not expressly declared by our constitution as a fundamental
right, but it is the goal of constitution by Art.14, 16 and 39(c). So this right can be enforced in cases of
unequal scales of pay based on irrational classification. In Mewa Ram v. A.I.I. Medical Science3 , the
Supreme Court held that the doctrine of ‘equal pay for equal work’ is not an abstract doctrine. Equality
must be among equals, unequal people cannot claim equality. Indian Constitution through articles 21, 23,
24, 38, 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43-A and 47 gives an idea of the conditions under which labour can be had
for work and also of the responsibility of the Government, both Central and State, towards the labour to
secure for them social order and living wages, keeping with the economic and political conditions of the
country and dignity of the nation. Articles 21, 23, and 24 form part of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed
under part III of the Constitution.
Whereas Articles 38, 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43-A and 47 form part of the Directive principles of
state policy under part IV of the constitution. Under these articles it is the duty of the State to promote the
welfare of the people, by securing and protecting a social order in which justice social, economic and
political shall inform all the institutions of the national life; to make effective provision for securing the
right to work, education and public assistance in cases of employment, etc., subject to limits of its
economic capacity to make provision for just and humane condition of work and for maternity relief; to
endeavor, to secure by suitable legislation or economic organization to all workers work, living wage,
conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural
opportunities, to promote cottage industries on an individual or cooperative basis in rural areas, and to
raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and improve public health etc. 2 1982 AIR 879 3
1989 AIR 1256 Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits traffic in human being and beggar and other
similar forms of forced labour. ‘Traffic in human beings’ means selling and buying men and women like
goods and includes immoral traffic in women and children for immoral” or other purposes.
Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories
and hazardous employment. This provision is certainly in the interest of public health and safety of life of
children. Article 39 of the Constitution imposes upon the State an obligation to ensure that the health and
strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of the children are not abused and that citizens
are not forced by economic necessary to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Indian
Constitution protects and provides safeguards to the labourer. The articles, though not directly but
indirectly, protects the rights of labourer. However it is indeed needed to be implemented practically and
the actions must be sought in case of avoidance of the principles.
Child Labour
There are clear constitutional provisions against child labour. India has not ratified the two ILO
fundamental conventions on child labour, but has ratified several older conventions specific to industry
and mines. Both the Mines Act and Factories Act have clear provisions against child labour, although
with different age levels set. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits child
labour (under 15 years) in certain industries and occupations, and permits child labour in other sectors,
with safeguards.
Constitutional provisions Several clauses of the Constitution are relevant: 24. No child below the age of
fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous
employment. 39. The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing (…) (e) that the health
and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens
are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength; (f) that children
are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and
dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material
Relevant ILO standards There are two fundamental conventions, not ratified by India: Minimum
Age Convention, 1973 (No 138) 42 Applies to all sectors of economic activity; states must declare a
national minimum age for admission to employment; all children are covered whether or not they are
employed for wages; states must pursue a national policy to ensure the effective abolition of child labour;
the minimum age for entry into work shall not less than the completion of compulsory schooling,
although a lower age than 14 years may be adopted for light work, for countries which are less developed;
an age level of 18 is set for hazardous work. Prohibition and Immediate Elimination of the Worst Forms
of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No 182) States to draw up a time bound programme for the
elimination of the worst forms of child labour; while the convention itself gives a list, states shall also
draw up their own list of the worst forms.
There are some older relevant conventions, which have been ratified by India: Minimum Age
(Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 5) Night Work of Young Persons (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 6)
Night Work of Young Persons (Industry) Convention (Revised), 1948 (No. 90) Minimum Age
(Underground Work) Convention, 1965 (No. 123) – Minimum age specified: 18 years
Companies shall develop or participate in and contribute to policies and programmes which
provide for the transition of any child found to be performing child labour to enable her or him to attend
and remain in quality education until no longer a child; “child” and “child labour” being defined in the
Children and young persons under 18 shall not be employed at night or in hazardous conditions.
These policies and procedures shall conform to the provisions of the relevant ILO standards. 43
Definitions (in the appendix to the base code) Child Any person less than 15 years of age unless local
minimum age law stipulates a higher age for work or mandatory schooling, in which case the higher age
shall apply. If however, local minimum age law is set at 14 years of age in accordance with developing
country exceptions under ILO Convention No. 138, the lower will apply. Young person Any worker over
the age of a child as defined above and under the age of 18. Child labour Any work by a child or young
person younger than the age(s) specified in the above definitions, which does not comply with the
provisions of the relevant ILO standards, and any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with
the child’s or young person’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s or young person’s health or
physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. 4.4 National legislation The Mines Act Section
40 prohibits the employment of any individual below the age of 18, in “any mine or part thereof”, which
would include above or below ground, the latter in line with the Minimum Age (Underground Work)
Convention, 1965.
Section 45 prohibits the presence of persons below 18 years of age in a mine. It states “no person
below 18 years of age shall be allowed to be present in part of a mine above ground where any operation
connected with or incidental to any mining operation is being carried on”. This might appear to be
repetition of the prohibition of child labour created by section 40. However, another reading of this
section would be that no children should be allowed in the vicinity of a quarry. Sometimes young people
are found near a quarry and concerns are raised about child labour; and the answer is given “but they are
not working, they have just come after school”. Section 45 of the Mines Act would seem to rule out this
response completely.
Factories Act Section 67 of the act prohibits a child who has “not completed his 14th year” from
working in a factory. 44 Sections 68 to 77 sets out the conditions under which adolescents (defined in
section 2 of the act as “a person who has completed his 15th year of age but has not completed his 18th
year”) are allowed to work. They must have a certificate of fitness issued by a certifying surgeon and
must carry a token to this effect. However, no female adolescent or a male adolescent who has not
attained the age of seventeen years shall be allowed to work in any factory except between 6 A.M. and 7
PM unless specifically provided otherwise by the State Government.
A register must be maintained of child workers employed in the factory.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 The Child Labour (Prohibition and
Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLPRA) defines a child as any person who has not completed his fourteenth year
of age. The act prohibits the engagement of children, as defined, in certain occupations and regulates the
conditions of work of children in certain sectors. The act prohibits children from working in any
occupation or process listed in a Schedule, and these include mines (underground and under water) and
collieries; stone breaking and stone crushing.
Contract Labour
A Contract labour is a workman employed in or in connection with the work of an establishment
when he is hired in or in connection with such work by or through a contractor, with or without the
knowledge of the principle employer. This system of employment is not new to India even though
globalisation has strengthened its roots in recent times. However, it is interesting to note that from very
early times the critiques of contract labour system were in plenty.
Employers save money by engaging labour without having to extend social welfare benefits such
as leave wages, Employees’ State Insurance or Provident Fund contributions, and bonus. However, in all
this the welfare of contract labour is ignored and they become an exploited and deprived lot.
The 1970 Act provides for abolition of contract labour wherever possible and practicable and
where it cannot, policy of the Act is that working conditions of contract labour should be regulated so as
to ensure payment of wages and essential benefits. It gave the prerogative of the Court to decide on the
abolition of contract labour to the appropriate Government after consultation with the advisory Board.
However, there were certain glaring omissions in the Act. One of them dealing with the fate of the
erstwhile contract workmen after the contract labour is abolished. These lacunae led to the catena of
conflicts between the management and the labour. On the abolition of the contract labour, the labour
seemed to be in a worse position than before as they can neither be employed by the contractor nor is
there any obligation cast on the principle employer to engage them in his establishment. Even the courts
left the decision of absorption on the industrial adjudicator who also could take a decision only if an
industrial dispute in this regard was raised by the regular employees!
Initially, the judiciary seemed reluctant to interfere in giving an appropriate relief to contract
labour through their absorption whenever they approached the court through a writ petition. For instance
in B.H.E.L Workers Association, Hardwar v. UOI [6] the court observed that to abolish and absorb labour
was a legislative activity with which the court was not entrusted under the constitution. In Catering
cleaners of southern railway v. UOI , the court held that writ of mandamus directing central government
to abolish the contract labour system cannot be issued because section 10 had vested the power in the
appropriate government. In the circumstances, the appropriate order to make according to Court, was to
direct the Central government to take suitable action under sec. 10 of the Act within six months from the
date of order. It was also observed that without waiting for the decision of the Central government, the
Southern Railway was free on its own motion to abolish the system and regularise the services of the
However, in Sankaran Mukherjee v. Union of India the Supreme Court which had earlier refused
to interfere in cases to abolish and absorb contract labour directed the abolition and subsequent absorption
of employees stressing on the fact that the CLRA Act,1970 should be construed liberally so as to
effectuate its objects. Similarly, in R.K.Panda v. SAIL, the court held that normally it would not exercise
its jurisdiction under Article 32 or 136 to adjudicate over matters of absorption but in this case it directed
that the contract labour as were continuing in respondents’s employment for the last 10 years in spite of
change of contractors should be absorbed as regular employees. Also, in National Federation of Railway
Porters, Vendors & Bearers v. UOI , the court gave directions to regularise employees based on a report
by Central Assistant Labour Commissioner.
The next major case was the Gujarat Electricity Board v. Hind Mazdoor Sabha where it was held
that only the appropriate government can abolish contract labour in accordance with section 10 and no
court or industrial adjudicator has jurisdiction. On the matter of absorption, the Supreme Court observed
that on the abolition of the contract labour, the labour seem to be in a worse position than before as they
can neither be employed by the contractor nor is there any obligation cast on the principle employer to
engage them in his establishment by the CLRA Act, 1970. They tried to gauge the legislative intent in this
regard and concluded that no provision for automatic absorption must be out of the fear that such a
provision would amount to forcing the contract labour of the principle employer. The court concluded
that in this regard the industrial adjudicator could be of help. He has the jurisdiction to change the
contractual relationship and also make new contracts between the employer and employees under the
Industrial disputes Act 1947.
But, who could raise such an industrial dispute? Section 10 applies only where there exists a
genuine contract. If contract is not genuine then the workers of the so called contractor can raise an
industrial dispute for declaring that they were always employees of the principle employer and can ask for
subsequent absorption. However, in case the adjudicator decides that the contract was genuine he may
refer the workmen to appropriate government for abolition under section 10 but only if the dispute is
espoused by the direct workmen of the principle employer as otherwise the dispute will not be an
industrial dispute under sec 2(k))
The above judgment neglects practical realities and has three fold limitations. Firstly, the court does not
define in practical sense what a genuine or a sham contract is. Secondly, inestimable thrust has been
imposed on regular employees of the principle employer to espouse the cause of the contract labour,
which is highly unimaginable in the real sense. Lastly, there is a long experience of existence of
inordinate delays in the reference of industrial disputes by the appropriate government for adjudication. In
this regard once industrial adjudicator refuses or rejects the reference on the ground that the dispute is not
an industrial dispute, the contract labour cannot dream of resolving their grievances.
Subsequently, Air India Statutory Corporations v. United Labour Union ruled that on the
abolition of the system of contract labour the workmen were entitled for absorption, and the court had
powers under the Art.226 to direct the employers to absorb such workers. There is no need to make a
reference under Sec.10 of ID Act for adjudication of dispute for absorption on abolition of contract labour
in the industry. The raising of industrial dispute by the contract labour which is to be espoused by the
regular workmen once the system is abolished was done away with.
However, soon post-globalisation and liberalisation period showed the judiciary wavering from its
earlier stand. The judiciary was lead on this path by a series of government initiatives to simplify labour
laws and to provide more flexibility to employers to ‘hire and fire’. In order to encourage investment and
expansion by employers they felt justified in their actions. Unfortunately, Air India decision was
overruled by Steel Authority of India Ltd v. National Union Waterfront Workers & Others a five judge
bench, wherein the court held that even in the cases where the system of contract labour is abolished, the
erstwhile contract labour who might have put up years of service as contract labour under the same
principal employer cannot be absorbed as a matter of right as there was no such provision in the Act.
The Second National Commission has recommended that the decision to abolish contract labour should
not be an executive one based on the recommendations of Contract Labour Advisory Board concerned but
must be a judicial one. It is unable to agree with the recommendation of the Study Group that the judicial
body vested with the responsibility for making recommendation on abolition should also be empowered
to order absorption by the principal employer of such numbers of contract labour as considered just and
The employment of contract labour has been condemned and been referred to as archaic by the Supreme
Court. The courts have called it an improved version of bonded labour and sought to abolish it. One of
the greatest achievements of civilization in the 20th Century was the accomplishment of human rights as
an integral part of Governance of the State. Even then rights such as the Right to Freedom of Association
including the Right to form and join trade unions for the protection of interests, and collective bargaining,
equality at work, protection against forced labour etc., all remain unattainable for the contract labour.
Constitutional mandates in the directive principles to the state policy, enunciating – “Right to secure just
and humane conditions of work(Article-42); Right to just and favourable remuneration, conditions of
work, ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure(Article-43); and Right to a standard
of living adequate for him and his family(Article-39(a) and 47)”; remains a dream for these hapless
The attitude of the State, Employer, Trade Union and the Judiciary has to be sympathetic to the
contract workers, to enable them the enjoyment of their human and constitutional rights. An early positive
action in this direction is imperative.
Human Rights and Migrant Workers
All persons, regardless of their nationality, race, legal or other status, are entitled to fundamental
human rights and basic labor protections, including migrant workers and their families.
Migrants are also entitled to certain human rights and protections specifically linked to their
vulnerable status.
The Human Rights at Issue
The human rights of migrant workers and their families include the following universal, indivisible,
interconnected and interdependent human rights:

The human right to work and receive wages that contribute to an adequate standard of living.

The human right to freedom from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, sex,
religion or any other status, in all aspects of work, including in hiring, conditions of work, and
promotion, and in access to housing, health care and basic services.

The human right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law, particularly in regard
to human rights and labor legislation, regardless of a migrant’s legal status.

The human right to equal pay for equal work.

The human right to freedom from forced labor.

The human right to protection against arbitrary expulsion from the State of employment.

The human right to return home if the migrant wishes.

The human right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of the migrant
worker and his or her family.

The human right to safe working conditions and a clean and safe working environment.

The human right to reasonable limitation of working hours, rest and leisure.

The human right to freedom of association and to join a trade union.

The human right to freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace.

The human right to protection during pregnancy from work proven to be harmful.

The human right to protection for the child from economic exploitation and from any work that
may be hazardous to his or her well-being and development.

The human right of children of migrant workers to education.

The human right of migrants and their families to reunification.
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their
➢ the Migration for Employment Convention
➢ the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention
➢ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
➢ the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
➢ the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
➢ the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,
➢ the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
➢ the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ILO Forced Labour Convention ,
➢ the ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention ,
➢ the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention,
“States Parties undertake … to respect and to ensure to all migrant workers and … their families within
their territory … rights … without distinction of any kind such as sex, race, colour, language, religion…,
national, ethnic or social origin, nationality … or other status….
Migrant workers and members of their families shall be free to leave any State, including their State of
origin…; … shall have the right at any time to enter and remain in their State of origin….
No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…. No migrant worker … shall be held in slavery or
servitude…; … shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour….
Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to freedom of thought,
conscience and religion…; … shall have the right to equality with nationals of the State concerned before
the courts and tribunals…; shall not be subject to measures of collective expulsion….
Every migrant worker and every member of his or her family shall have the right to recognition
everywhere as a person before the law…; … shall enjoy treatment not less favourable than that which
applies to nationals of the State of employment in respect of remuneration … overtime, hours of work,
weekly rest, holidays with pay, safety, health, termination of the employment relationship … minimum
age of employment…. States Parties recognize the right of migrant workers …
To take part in meetings and activities of trade unions…. With respect to social security, migrant
workers and members of their families shall enjoy in the State of employment the same treatment granted
to nationals in so far as they fulfil the requirements provided for by .. applicable legislation…. Migrant
workers and members of their families shall have the right to receive any medical care that is urgently
required for the preservation of their life or the avoidance of irreparable harm to their health on the basis
of equality of treatment with nationals of the State concerned…. Each child of a migrant worker shall have
the right to a name, to registration of birth and to a nationality…; … shall have the basic right of access to
education on the basis of equality of treatment with nationals of the State concerned….”
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of
Their Families,
Articles 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 18, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30
“Each Member … undertakes to apply, without discrimination in respect of nationality, race,
religion or sex, to immigrants lawfully within its territory, treatment no less favourable than that which it
applies to its own nationals in re…

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