Civil Liberties or Civil Rights
For many people the difference between civil liberties and civil rights is a confusing issue. There are distinct definitions that exist between the two terms although they can be seen to have certain links with each other.
Defining Rights and LibertiesThere is a major difference between what is known as civil liberties and civil rights. Civil liberties are a basic set of laws of freedom and rights that have been guaranteed by the government. These liberties have been guaranteed in the forms of laws that have been passed to protect rights such as marriage rights or the right to vote. In many cases these liberties are also set out as protection from government abuse of power. Civil rights are a set of rules and laws that are intended to protect people from discrimination and harassment when it comes to issues such as race, gender, and ethnicity.
Basic Civil LibertiesCivil liberties and civil rights may seem like a confusing issue when it comes to definition but they do cover two separate areas. Basic protected civil liberties will include:
- The right to freedom of speech and privacy
- The right to a fair court trial for every person
- The right to marry
- Certain rights such as the police being prohibited from searching the home without a warrant
Defining Civil RightsCivil rights took a lot longer to come into force and have been an historic struggle over hundreds of years. The civil rights movements in both America and the UK were instrumental in winning civil rights against discrimination. Only by fighting for these civil rights were people able to go about their lives without fear of harassment and discrimination. Civil rights mean equal treatment for all without discrimination based on gender, race, age, disability, religion, sexuality and nationality.
Civil Rights MovementToday we take many of the civil rights we have for granted but this was not always the case. Civil rights have been a controversial issue in both America and in the UK. It has been just over 40 years since the Civil Rights Act 1964 was passed. Before this, African-American people were subjected to discrimination on a massive scale with regards to employment, housing and voting rights. The battle for equal rights did not come without bloodshed and it was a hugely important period in the world’s history.
A Common ExampleAn example that will help explain the difference between civil liberties and human rights can be found when it comes to employment. An employee does not have any legal rights when it comes to being promoted; it is not guaranteed or defined as a civil liberty. However, a disabled employee should not be discriminated against if they wish to apply for a promotion. If they are discriminated against because they are disabled then this would be an infringement of their civil rights not their civil liberties.
Enforcing your Civil RightsIf someone has been discriminated against because of race, gender, disability etc, then they can enforce their civil rights. Legal proceedings are costly but they may sometimes be the only option. Civil rights are protected under the law and it is a legal right to take a case to the civil courts. However, the cost of doing so may make this a prohibitive route for some. Other initial options can include starting a grievance procedure, talking to superiors about the discrimination and even taking the issue to the media.
In many cases the simple act of personally enforcing your civil rights on a smaller scale will make a difference. Discrimination should never be tolerated; people have fought and died for the civil rights we now take for granted. It only takes one person to stand up and make a difference when it comes to maintaining an equal society.