What Are Civil Rights?

by JoHarrington

Civil rights are those laws aimed at creating social equality. They protect from discrimination in all walks of life.

Civil rights are those human rights which seek to promote fairness in society.

This is where we are talking about equality, the right to vote and freedom of speech, amongst other tings.

The circumstances of your birth - particularly natural attributes like gender, race, sexuality and disability - should never be a barrier to accessing certain fundamental rights.

Legislation is usually enacted to ensure that this is the case, though international law already underscores your civil rights.

Personal Rights Guaranteed by Legislation

Laws and governance define and pro-actively protect our civil rights.

Yesterday my cousin was showing me his company manual, which was in the process of being up-dated. My eyes skimmed the text of one page and I burst out laughing.

He was trying to tell his employees that no-one would be discriminated against due to factors like disability, race and ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age et al. But, somewhere between the proof-reader and the printer, a word had been dropped. It changed the whole nature of the document by triggering the dual meaning of 'sex'.

"So you won't have anything to say if people are having sex on the job?"


We checked the original. That should have read 'sex, gender alignment, sexual orientation'. In short, he was declaring equality amongst his workers, regardless of whether they were male, female, transsexual, transgender, bi-gender or any other gender-related designation. They were also fine if they were heterosexual, bisexual, pan-sexual or homosexual.

He would probably have produced this document anyway, because he's a good man and a great employer. However, as a Briton, he also has to obey certain laws, as he runs his business. One of those is to ensure that policies like this exist in every workplace in the country.

It is part of our civil rights.

Civil Rights Movement DVDs

Watch these documentaries and docu-dramas to understand how your freedoms were won (or are still being fought for, tooth and nail).
Beyond Gay: The Politics of PrideEyes on The Prize: America's Civil Ri...Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After ...

What is the Difference Between Human Rights and Civil Rights?

The short answer is 'nothing'. They are both referring to what people tend to call their 'freedoms'.

Human Rights is an over-arching term, covering a broad range of safeguards, laws and ideals, of which civil rights is merely one part.

Many articles in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights cover elements which would generally be considered civil rights.

Alternatively, they could be differentiated by detail. For example, Article 7 begins: 'All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.' This is a fundamental human right.

The onus is then on each national government to enact legislation to fulfill its commitment to safeguard that article. In the USA, that would be the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX amended SEC. 901. Title 28 of the United States Code, section 1447(d) to ensure that race, color, gender and country of origin were not barriers to getting a fair hearing in an American court of law.

This was now firmly a civil right, because it had legislation to support it. However, it's best not to get too precious over the differences in terms. There is so much cross-over as to render the semantics redundant.

The articles which are usually viewed as civil rights are: freedom of speech; freedom of information; right to vote; equality and discrimination issues; legal processes and protection under the laws of the land; and access to public amenities and services, like healthcare.

They might be better illustrated by highlighting some of the most famous events in the history of civil rights.

T-Shirts With Civil Rights Slogans

Protest attacks upon your freedoms with apparel expressing precisely how you feel.

Martin Luther King Jr. was such a brilliant orator, that his words have become synonymous with all civil rights movements since.

Buy the book to learn why his passion and ideals changed the world.

Emily Wilding Davison Killed by the King's Horse at the Epsom Derby

Watch one of the most shocking civil rights protests ever. On June 4th 1913, a Suffragette achieved martyrdom to highlight the right of women to vote.

Emily Wilding Davison was passionate about women's rights, particularly that of universal suffrage (the right to vote in national elections).

Buy the book to learn how activists, like the Suffragettes, secured the civil rights which women today take for granted.

The Stonewall Riots of 1969

Learn about a civil rights flashpoint, which is still reverberating around the world today. Fighting back, on the night of June 27, 1969, sparked the whole LGBT revolution.

The struggle for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people is the great civil rights movement of the present day.

Buy the book to trace the explosive events, from one night in New York City, when homosexuals finally said enough is enough.

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The mere fact of being born into our species entitles you to human rights; but do you know what they actually are?
Updated: 10/09/2012, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 02/24/2012

I love that Benjamin Franklin quotation, that's on the first t-shirt: 'Those who sacrifice liberty for security, deserve neither.' He was a very astute man.

At the last British general election, many of my disillusioned friends were saying that they weren't going to vote. It was a two-horse race between two parties, which were both infested with Thatcherism. I was laughed at for being determined to vote anyway.

One of my friends said, "Why are you even bothering?"

My answer was, "Because Emily Wilding Davison left me no choice." How can any woman be too apathetic to join the electorate, when a woman died to give us the right to do so?

I'm glad that you liked this. :D

katiem2 on 02/24/2012

Thank you for reminding us of the sacrifices our historical and present women have made to insure our rights. Its a passionate gift they have given us and I feel we should uphold their work, sacrifices and press on as you and I both realize the work that remains! love Love LOVE this piece!

JoHarrington on 02/24/2012

That always happens in academic writing. I remember during my dissertation spending days researching and defining a) the difference between a religion and a cult (there isn't one); and b) describing precisely what I meant by 'religion'. Get those things wrong and the paper is sunk before you even start. LOL

I get the feeling that if society didn't manufacture so many distinctions and 'normal behaviour' onto people, based solely on their genitals, then we wouldn't require quite so many words to describe all of the nuances!

You ramble away. I always enjoy your comments.

Ember on 02/24/2012

This is relevant to a paper I wrote just this past week :D

I was writing about transsexuals mainly, but I also included discussion of transgendered persons as well. It took me a bit to choose my terms, because they are sometimes used synonymously, sometimes very clearly not, and they all have specific definitions depending on what my source literature was. So I had to stop a take a minute and just set out a page of terms that I had to define before I could start writing. I didn't want to be switching back and forth between terms in the paper itself, and I wanted to avoid confusion in term ideas. Anyways, long story short I really liked something I came across in defining sex and gender. Sex refers specifically to the reproductive organs of an individual, (and of course the inherent double entendre ;p), gender refers to the the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with an individual's sex, but I preferred the definition of the state of being feminine or masculine according society's or culture's alignment with the idea of what feminine and masculine is (the first is a lot better technically, its a long story behind why I preferred the second). Finally gender roles would be the expectations set upon a specific sex to fulfill certain roles set out for their associated gender. (I needed that to defend specifically why I was using the term transsexual as opposed to transgender, and to explain how I was technically defining each, although it can all be quite confusing. XD You know what's funny about grad school? I have to defend definition of terms in papers, I can't just use words anymore >.> Why?! lol).

Anyways, sorry for all of the rambling, (thank you for always putting up with it) :D It is Thursday, I get to do my leisure reading. Yay. Internet blogs are taking over XD I'm not reading as many books as I normally do. LOL

...I really enjoyed your article! <3

JoHarrington on 02/22/2012

Thank you very much.

Pan-sexual means no gender specific attraction. It differs from bisexual in that the latter choose only male or female. Those who identify as pan-sexual also include attraction to transsexual, bigender and trans-gender people. I had to ask as well, before I was educated on the subject by a teenager!

Shaz on 02/22/2012

Excuse my ignorance, but what is 'pan-sexual'? Great article by the way :)

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