These include the right to vote at age 18, to serve in an army at 18 or get married at 16, drink at 18, or drive a car at 17. The Suffragette movement involved women in the 19th and early 20th centuries, who, believe it or not, fought hard for the right to vote.
Emmeline Pankhurst, a suffragette, became famous because of her bravery. Along with many other women, she helped win the right to equality. Since 1928 women over the age of 21 in the United Kingdom have had the right to vote.
In America, Rosa Parks sat at the front of a bus and refused to give up her seat to a white woman, which was unheard of. She stood up for her right to be a human being. The Civil Rights movement was born in 1954 out of the lack of rights for non-white Americans. They did not even have the right to sit in the front seats of buses, they were not allowed to eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, or drink water from the same places as white people.
When they fought this injustice, they were beaten and abused.
In countries such as Israel, North Korea, and Cuba serving in the army is compulsory. You do not have the right to refuse. In the United States, people have the “right to bear arms”, which means they are allowed to carry a weapon. While this is an example of freedom of rights, the issue is that weapons are sometimes placed in the hands of people who end up doing a lot of harm. Thousands of people are killed each year as a result of gun violence.
In the last few years, there have been new and older violent conflicts in Syria, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Mali, Cameroun, and Ukraine to name a few, and all of these have in one way or another to do with rights and how they are understood, or misunderstood.
The importance of having the right to live the way you choose allows for more peace of mind and hopefully more peace where you live. So it’s important to know more about human rights and what they try to achieve.
Michelle Lowe is a Relationship Coach based in the United Kingdom
This article first appeared in the Peace issue. It has been updated.