A very brief overview of a very important idea
Human dignity under law is an idea, a way of thinking, a way of acting, a right. Dignity is the idea that every person, everywhere has inherent, equal worth. It’s as if each one of us is given a very precious coin at birth that we keep with us always as we grow and can never lose. But it’s more than that. It’s a right that can be held up to any government or any person to get the respect one deserves. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This simple statement has changed the world.
In fact, about 160 countries around the world protect this idea of human dignity in their constitutions. As explored in the chapters below, people around the world are asking courts to ensure that governments treat them as human beings, allow them to fully develop who they are, and live with dignity.
Courts are listening, as the following pages reveal. For instance, when a man in South Africa was sentenced to death, the court ruled that taking his life would violate his dignity by treating him as less than human. Prisoners in other countries have demanded that they always be treated with dignity. When a young woman in India couldn’t finish her studies because the fees were too high, the court ruled that everyone is entitled to education, because it is the foundation of self-development. And in...
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