All rights are inalienable

I have before me an open blog and the entire internet as a possible audience.There doesn’t seem to be much point to making a long introduction as that isn’t what this blog will be about. It will be my views, either in the form of short written pieces or comments and links to articles that I find interesting or worth sharing. I do want to keep it fairly broad so you can expect comments on what is happening throughout the world, religion and science with a general theme of evidence and reason. To start off with I will be sharing a letter I wrote to the Southern Suburbs Tatler which was published on May 19 2011.


I’m writing in reply to Motshabi Moemise’s piece (“You have the right to live your life with dignity”, Tatler April 28). Overall, I support the article and its defence of human rights, however there was one point in particular with which I disagreed and would like to challenge, that being the difference between unalienable and inalienable rights.

Moemise differentiated between them by saying that unalienable rights cannot be surrendered or transferred to another person while inalienable rights could be transferred. I want to argue that all rights should be inalienable with the possibility for a person to voluntarily relinquish such a right.

If you consider some rights unalienable you will automatically be preventing discussion of certain serious debates, isolating various groups and, in doing so, undermining the very purpose of having rights. There will be some situations wherein one or more rights conflict with one another and, in such situations, there has to be the option to surrender one or another right.

Something like this is already done in courts when the rights of different people conflict and it must be decided which gets priority. If the conflict only involves one person then they should be able to relinquish whichever right they choose, as their priorities might be different to another person’s priorities.

Human rights are certainly important in allowing people to live the best life that they can but we must be careful not to turn rights into obligations. You cannot, in good conscience, remove another person’s rights but you can choose to suspend your own if you wish. If you deny people that opportunity rights no longer become a way of protecting and empowering people but just a form of well-intentioned slavery.


3 thoughts on “All rights are inalienable

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