Fundamental and inalienable rights

a metal statuette of the personification of justice: a blindfolded woman holding scales and a sword

by Kate Woodford

Human Rights Day is celebrated internationally on December 10th. On this day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which describes the rights (= things that you are allowed by law) of all human beings. To mark this very important date, we’re looking at the way the noun ‘right’ is used and the words that often come with it.

Starting with prepositions, we say that someone has a right to something, and we talk about someone’s rights as citizens / parents / employees, etc.:

Everyone has a right to education. / the right to free speech

We were taught about our civic duties and our rights as citizens.

To talk about the simplest and most important of rights, we often use the adjectives basic and fundamental:

All human beings should have their basic rights protected under the law.

We all have a fundamental right to a clean and healthy environment.

A right that cannot by law be taken away from you is called, formally, an inalienable right:

Peaceful protest is an inalienable right in a democracy.

You have a right to do something and you can assert or (formal) exercise a right, meaning that you use that right. If you decide not to use a particular right, you say that you waive the right:

I understand that I have the right to remain silent.

He went to court to assert his rights.

I will continue to exercise my right to protest.

She has waived her right to anonymity.

If you are within your rights to do something, the law allows you to do it:

You are certainly within your rights to refuse this request.

We say that rights are protected or, more formally, upheld or safeguarded, meaning that they are supported and kept:

The charter was established to protect workers’ rights.

Parliament should uphold the rights of minorities.

The decision should also help to safeguard the rights of tenants.

When rights are not allowed, they are denied, violated or formal infringed on /upon:

The government, she claims, have violated the right of workers to strike.

Law enforcement has no right to infringe on citizens’ rights to free speech.

Someone is granted the right to do something when it is given to them:

She was granted the right to remain in the UK.

Finally, we talk about rights and freedoms / privileges and we also use the phrase rights and obligations / responsibilities:

Anyone who supports human rights and freedoms should oppose this bill.

Many consumers are unaware of their rights and obligations.

6 thoughts on “Fundamental and inalienable rights

    1. Hi!

      It means Kate is passionate about baking and baked goods.

      Compelled – she has to bake.

      Compulsive – she does it often and regularly.

      She cannot resist baking and the baked goods she makes.

  1. Denis

    Excellently written, as usual.
    Dear Kate, wouldn’t you mind kindly answering my question about ‘the Midas touch’ to your previous post?


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