image-9As a human being, you are innately entitled to certain inalienable fundamental rights. As a way of documenting and asserting these rights, the United Nations on 10 December 1948 in Paris adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR represented the first global expression of what human rights are. Essentially, Article 1 of the UDHR gave credence to the fact that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Additionally, these rights were classified into civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

Civil rights are classes of rights that protect your freedom from infringements. These violations could be from governments, social organizations and private individuals. Civil rights ensure that we receive fair treatment irrespective of your status or personality. These rights are known to be crucial components of many federal and state laws. This class of rights is enshrined in Articles 3-21 of the UDHR, and they include the following:

  1. Protection from discrimination by gender, color, political affiliation, age, disabilities, freedoms of speech and thoughts, privacy, national origin, religion, ethnicity, etc.
  2. Ensuring people’s physical and mental integrity, life, and safety without prejudice

Most times, ignorance of our civil rights has caused many of us lots of abuse. From losing out on jobs inexplicably to being harassed sexually, a considerable number of us have had our civil rights breached without taking any legal actions. As a way of encouraging you to become knowledgeable about your civil rights, we have listed out some important reasons why you should know about your civil rights. Here are the lists:

It Is Your Civic Responsibility: Knowing your civil rights as a citizen means you are a productive citizen. Adequate knowledge of your civil rights will allow you to perform your citizenship responsibilities fully without being discriminated unjustly. By knowing your rights, you will be able to give your opinions in national discourse without any fear of retribution. In situations where the government enact laws or carry out activities that you don’t like, you are justified to embark on peaceful protests, strikes, or even appropriate boycotts.

As A Means of Protecting Yourself from Police Harassment: Police officers might have infringed your rights without your knowledge, perhaps because you were ignorant of your civic rights. A peculiar portion of your civil rights serves to protect you against an unreasonable incidence of searches and seizures. You are not mandated to give consent to a police officer’s search request without a search warrant. Also, a police officer is also not entitled to search your private properties without asking for your permission, as long as you are not being arrested or detained.

Additionally, it is within your right to remain silent and not to answer any of the questions asked by the police. In situations where you are being pressurized to answer, you could call your lawyer before saying anything. However, you are obliged to provide your name, be courteous, be non-confrontational and be friendly to the law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, when you are stopped by a police officer, your civil rights protect you from self-incrimination. In other words, it allows you to terminate an encounter with the police. You are only compelled to show the officer your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. In cases where you are forced to submit to an enforcement officer’s request against your will, your attorney can help you.

To defend Yourself from Being Molested by Authorities: As an inhabitant of a place, whether you are a citizen or non-citizen, your civil rights exist to guard you against being oppressed by authorities. For instance, as a tenant, you have the right to get fair housing in exchange for your rent. Knowing your civil rights disallows your landlord from holding all the cards and taking advantage of you. He/she does not have the right to make individual decisions that affect your tenancy on your behalf. Also, as an employee, you are entitled to receive additional allowances for working overtime in your workplace, especially in occasions where such agreement was not stated in your working contract.

 Furthermore, your boss is not expected to assault you physically or subject you to undue criticisms. As a non-citizen or minority, your civil rights serve to protect you from all forms of racism. It also prevents you from being harassed by immigration officers, as long as your immigration documents are valid.

To Obtain Appropriate Justice: Proper knowledge of what your rights are, when your rights are being violated and who is breaching your rights are very necessary for pursuing justice when you feel you suspect an attack on your civil rights. Also, knowing what legal actions are available to you and the time limits for which these actions can be taken can also be very helpful.

Essentially, you must be a victim or be affected in one way or the other by the violation to be able to make a report. Likewise, you must file the court action within a year of the breach. Winning a civil right violation in a court of law can make you a rich person overnight. Apart from the potential fine, your offenders might be compelled to pay you for winning the legal battle.

To Prevent Yourself from Being an Offender Unknowingly: As earlier mentioned, breaching another person’s civil rights can cost you thousands of dollars in fine and jail sentence in some extreme cases. You have to understand every other person’s right is as important as yours. For example, you are not expected to attack a person that is countering your protest, argue with a cop, use a loud speaker to obstruct others’ silence or prevent government officials from carrying out their duties. In as much as your civil right gives you credence to express yourself freely, you have to know that such freedom is regulated by the law. So, be careful when you are expressing your rights.

Bottom Line

Ignorance of your civil rights have the potentials to make you the victim. It could also position you as an offender. As a victim, not knowing your civil rights take away your rights to protect yourself. And as an offender, it could cost you some amount of money in fine, or even jail sentence in severe cases. All in all, knowing your civil rights will help you in tremendous ways.

Photo Credit: Sacconsulting