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Positive and negative rights: a matter of controversy - Essay Example

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Positive and Negative Rights: A Matter of Controversy Introduction Traditionally, human rights are divided into two; positive and negative. Positive rights are the rights which usually involve receiving some benefits. Some examples are right to education and right to health care…
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Positive and negative rights: a matter of controversy
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"Positive and negative rights: a matter of controversy"

Download file to see previous pages On the other hand, a negative right is considered as a right to liberty which is to be free from interference (ibid). Thus, there is the claim that in order to protect the negative rights of people, what is to be done is to allow the people to function freely or to leave them alone. On the other hand, positive rights require that someone must provide goods or services through some action; not inaction. Is there a clear distinction between positive and negative rights? In the opinion of Donnelly (2003, p.30), the distinction between negative rights and positive rights is open to criticism because of the fact that the distinction shows no moral significance. Also, it is argued that it is not able to be in line with the distinction between civil and political rights and economic and social rights (ibid). According to Donnelly (2003, p. 30), the right to protection against torture is often proclaimed as the epitome of this negative right. The claim is that this does not require the state to do anything other than showing ‘forbearance’ and abstaining from ‘incursions’ on both personal liberty and bodily integrity of people. However, Donnelly (2003) points out that this protection against torture requires a large number of positive efforts from the part of the government. Some such examples provided by Donnelly include training, supervising, and controlling police and security forces (ibid). In addition, there is the argument that it can be highly expensive in many countries. According to people like Donnelly, the mere fact is that though civil and political rights are entirely negative, these negative civil and political rights, in fact, call for attention and positive action because their violation in practice will result in directly inflicting injury, which can be considered as an action of commission. On the other hand, positive economic and social rights are the only the result of failing to provide a benefit, which is the result of omission (ibid). In order to show that how these positive and negative rights intermingle, Donnelly (2003, p. 31) provides the example of a man stranded in a desert. As the man is about to die without food and water, a sailor comes ashore. Seeing the dying man, the sailor leaves without offering any help to the dying man. Though the guilt is just an act of omission, the result is not different from killing the man; an act of commission (ibid). For people like Orend (2002, p.140), positive rights are not as strong as negative rights. For example if ones right to free movement is restricted, there is a great violation of human rights. However, if ones right to health care is denied, there is comparatively less harm involved. In simple terms, a negative right prevents other persons by limiting their actions against the right holder (ibid). On the other hand, a positive right gives the right holder a chance to claim that another person or the state has failed to offer some service or good. When positive and negative rights contradict In fact, in most nations, the positive rights are used by governments to overcome or suppress the negative rights enjoyed by people. For example, it is proclaimed by most nations that the citizens enjoy the freedom of speech as a negative right. However, they successfully forget the fact that there is also the right not to get offended by bigotry. Similarly, the nations ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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