"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
The rights of all people worldwide are protected by three documents created by the United Nations:
the Universal Declaration of
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(ICESCR)and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR)Together, these three documents form the
International Bill of Human Rights.
Malawi has signed and ratified all three documents, which means that it is legally bound by the provisions of the two
Covenants. Other convents to which Malawi is a signatory are the ones aimed at promoting the rights of women,
The International Covenant on the
Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW) and the
Convention on the Rights of the Child(CRC)
Because Africa has specific issues and challenges, the African Union has created its own document,
the African Charter on Human and People's Rights(also known as the Banjul Charter).
The charter functions similarly to an international treaty, and the African Union has set up the African Court on
Human and Peoples' Rights to uphold its provisions.
International law is complicated and very difficult to enforce, so it is important for countries to provide for human rights in their own laws. The Constitution of Malawi is the highest law in the country; it governs the way in which all other laws are made, and it prevails if there is a disagreement between it and another legal instrument. Certain parts of the constitution can only be changed by referendum- which means the people get a chance to vote. This is an important protection against excessive or irresponsible use of government power. Chapter five of the Constitution details your constitutional rights.
There are some inconsistencies between the international laws on human rights and the Constitution. Some of these are rights that have been left out of the constitution because Malawi does not yet have the resources to achieve them. Others are limitations and reservations placed on your constitutional rights in the interests of making it easier to govern. These are limitations that the Malawian government has decided to impose, and in some case, restrict the ability of Malawians to exercise their human rights. Human rights law in Malawi is further complicated by customary law, which is given status by the Constitution. Customary law is the body of law created by cultural habit and tradition, and is often unwritten; Organizations like the Rights Institute for Social Empowerment-RISE work to encourage governments to bring their laws into line with the International Bill of Human Rights for the betterment of all people in Malawi.
Human Rights Made Easy "The rights of every person are diminished when the rights of one person are threatened." - John F. Kennedy "It is undeniable that every human being is entitled to living space, daily bread, and the protection of the law as a common birthright; these are fundamentals and should not be handed out as an act of charity." - Alfred Delp, S.J.
What are human rights? Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems. All States have ratified at least one, and 80% of States have ratified four or more, of the core human rights treaties, reflecting consent of States which creates legal obligations for them and giving concrete expression to universality. Some fundamental human rights norms enjoy universal protection by customary international law across all boundaries and civilizations. Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law.
All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
Non-discrimination is a cross-cutting principle in international human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of international human rights conventions such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The principle applies to everyone in relation to all human rights and freedoms and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of non-exhaustive categories such as sex, race, color and so on. The principle of non-discrimination is complemented by the principle of equality, as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.