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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Civil and political rights are a class of rights and freedoms that protect individuals from unwarranted action by government and private organizations and individuals and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.



Civil rights include:

Political rights include:

Civil and political rights comprise the first portion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (with economic, social and cultural rights comprising the second portion). The theory of three generations of human rights considers this group of rights to be "first-generation rights", and the theory of negative and positive rights considers them to be generally negative rights.

Guarantees of rights

Civil and political rights were among the first to be recognized and codified. In many countries, they are constitutional rights and are included in a bill of rights or similar document. They are also defined in international human rights instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Civil and political rights need not be codified to be protected, although most democracies worldwide do have formal written guarantees of civil and political rights. Civil rights are often considered to be natural rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote in his 1774 A Summary View of the Rights of British America that "a free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate."

Custom also plays a role. Implied rights are rights that courts may find to exist even though not expressly guaranteed by written law or custom; one example is the right to privacy in the United States.

The question of who civil and political rights apply to is a subject of controversy. In many countries, citizens have greater protections against infringement of rights than non-citizens; at the same time, civil and political rights are considered to be universal rights that apply to all persons.

When civil and political rights are not guaranteed to all as part of equal protection of laws, social unrest may ensue. Civil rights movements over the last 60 years have resulted in an extension of civil and political rights.

Problems and analysis

Questions about civil and political rights have frequently emerged. For example, to what extent should the government intervene to protect individuals from infringement on their rights by other individuals, or from corporations — e.g., in what way should employment discrimination in the private sector be dealt with?

Political theory deals with civil and political rights. Robert Nozick and John Rawls expressed competing visions in Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia and Rawls' A Theory of Justice. Other influential authors in the area include Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld and Jean Edward Smith.

See also

External links

Simple English

Civil rights are rights that all people in a country have. The civil rights of one country apply to all its citizens within the borders of the country. The rights are given by the laws of the country.

Civil rights include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, the right to own property and to get fair and equal treatment from the government, other people, and private groups.

In democratic countries, a person's civil rights are protected by law and custom. The constitutions of many democracies have a "Bill of Rights" that describes the people's liberties and rights. A well-known example is the United States Bill of Rights.

A court of law decides if a person's civil rights have been violated. The courts also decide the limits of civil rights, so that people do not use their freedoms to take away the rights of other people.


Other pages


  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights



  • American Civil Rights Movement (1896-1954)
  • American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
  • List of anti-discrimination acts
  • Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association

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