The expression ‘civil rights’ has different meanings in different contexts and countries. In democratic Europe, civil rights are associated with the rights of persons as members of civil society, which emerged in the 18th century. They include the right to a fair trial, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, equality before the law, and freedom of expression, thought and worship. Many of them are now thought of as human rights, that is, rights which all persons should enjoy. Civil rights are sometimes distinguished from the political rights fought for in 19th-century Europe and America, although there is in practice much overlap between the two categories. Political rights guarantee citizens' participation in the formation and exercise of governmental power, through the right of free association, organization and the right to vote. Civil and political rights are usually entrenched in Bills of Rights in most liberal democratic constitutions (the UK is a notable exception). Civil and political rights together are often distinguished from social and economic rights. Some political thinkers, especially socialists, argue that substantive or social rights should be incorporated into law: such as the right to minimum nutrition, paid work, a certain number of years of public education and access to health care. They maintain that many civil rights are confined to procedural equality treating persons as equals and instead advocate the use of rights to set standards for citizenship. Civil rights may be distinguished from civil liberties, although the distinction is disputed by some. Not all civil rights are permissive in the way that civil liberties are. Civil liberties allow people to do some things without permission, whereas some civil rights prescribe standards. In the US, discourse about civil rights, although having some of the same connotations as it has in Europe, has become associated with the legal rights and protection of maltreated racial and ethnic minorities; and the recognition that civil rights legislation did not stop de facto segregation and discrimination led to the development of affirmative action. BO'L
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