Following are the characteristics of human rights:
1. Human Rights are Inalienable – Human rights are conferred on an individual due to the very nature of his existence. They are inherent in all individuals irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, sex and nationality. Human rights are conferred to an individual even after his death. The different rituals in different religions bear testimony to this fact.
2. Human Rights are Essential and Necessary – In the absence of human rights, the moral, physical, social and spiritual welfare of an individual is impossible. Human rights are also essential as they provide suitable conditions for material and moral upliftment of the people.
3. Human Rights are in connection with human dignity – To treat another individual with dignity irrespective of the fact that the person is a male or female, rich or poor etc. is concerned with human dignity. For eg. In 1993, India has enacted a law that forbids the practice of carrying human excreta. This law is called Employment of Manual Scavengers and Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act.
4. Human Rights are Irrevocable – Human rights are irrevocable. They cannot be taken away by any power or authority because these rights originate with the social nature of man in the society of human beings and they belong to a person simply because he is a human being. As such human rights have similarities to moral rights.
5. Human Rights are Necessary for the fulfillment of purpose of life – Human life has a purpose. The term “human right” is applied to those conditions which are essential for the fulfillment of this purpose. No government has the power to curtail or take away the rights which are sacrosanct, inviolable and immutable.
6. Human Rights are Universal – Human rights are not a monopoly of any privileged class of people. Human rights are universal in nature, without consideration and without exception. The values such as divinity, dignity and equality which form the basis of these rights are inherent in human nature.
7. Human Rights are never absolute – Man is a social animal and he lives in a civic society, which always put certain restrictions on the enjoyment of his rights and freedoms. Human rights as such are those limited powers or claims, which are contributory to the common good and which are recognized and guaranteed by the State, through its laws to the individuals. As such each right has certain limitations.
8. Human Rights are Dynamic – Human rights are not static, they are dynamic. Human rights go on expanding with socio-eco-cultural and political developments within the State. Judges have to interpret laws in such ways as are in tune with the changed social values. For eg. The right to be cared for in sickness has now been extended to include free medical treatment in public hospitals under the Public Health Scheme, free medical examinations in schools, and the provisions for especially equipped schools for the physically handicapped.
9. Rights as limits to state power – Human rights imply that every individual has legitimate claims upon his or her society for certain freedom and benefits. So human rights limit the state’s power. These may be in the form of negative restrictions, on the powers of the State, from violating the inalienable freedoms of the individuals, or in the nature of demands on the State, i.e. positive obligations of the State. For eg. Six freedoms that are enumerated under the right to liberty forbid the State from interfering with the individual.