Human rights are more than individual rights

February 8th, 2014  |  Published in Power & Politics

clown trimHuman rights are more than individual rights.

Aren’t they?

And will surely remain so until we have a level playing field.

I’ve been worrying about what worried me about a recent article about Tim Wilson, Australia’s new Human Rights Commissioner (click here). Apart from the obvious, that is – his links to the conservative think tank, IPA (Institute of Public Affairs), with its links to Big Tobacco, the mining lobby, and climate denial (click here).

The core problem, as I currently see it, is that Tim Wilson approaches human rights primarily as individual rights, consistent with his “classical liberal political philosophy”.

And the problem with that is that it assumes a level playing field; one in which every individual is equally situated to assert his/her individual rights.

But the playing field is NOT even. Rather, it is notoriously bumpy, careering through structural inequalities of race, gender, and socioeconomic status, to name but a few.

The collective rights of marginalised groups (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, women, the LGBTI community, people with disabilities, etc.) need to be on the human rights agenda, as well as individual rights; and that means they need to be on Tim Wilson’s agenda.

Tim Wilson believes “human rights are universal, and are at risk of being undermined when particular groups receive special treatment.”

Wrong. Calling attention to collective rights is NOT calling for “special treatment”. It is calling for recognition of the parlous state of the playing field.


What do you think? Leave your comments…Joan Beckwith.

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