Civil rights refer to the rights acknowledged as belonging to all sections of individuals in a society, that can be defended in court, and that cannot be arbitrarily denied by either the state or private parties. Typically, they are argued to protect the individual against the state, subject to obvious limitations, and articulated in connection to the rights of others or the greater good.
Although the concept of citizens’ rights being enshrined in legal theories was not new, the Civil Rights Movement gave it new significance in the twentieth century. After enslaved people won the right to freedom during the American Civil War, civil rights took on a distinctly contemporary character. It is reflected in late 20th-century civil rights legislation, such as the United States 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Civil rights may also be used interchangeably with human rights, albeit it may have a somewhat different connotation. Both ideas suggest that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of money, color, religion, or gender. It also includes protection from the state and the law. Civil liberties are made possible in the USA by the Bill of Rights. Civil liberties are more often discussed in the UK since there was no codified protection of such rights before the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998.
Although activists often use the language of civil rights to imply that they have a case that no moral person could reject, what should be considered fundamental human or civil rights is itself a topic of political contention. The apparent challenge is that any lengthy list will include things that cannot be reconciled. For instance, women’s rights and religious freedom will conflict if a religion upholds the idea that men and women should be submissive to one another.
Certain legal protections and entitlements are granted to citizens solely due to citizenship. Civil liberties, which may or may not be guaranteed by the law and which belong to everyone regardless of whether they are codified in the law, may therefore be separated from civil liberties. It is sometimes difficult to discern clearly between the two sets of rights due to the unique political structures inside nations. For instance, the Bill of Rights in the US declares all human rights to be civil rights. In the UK, it is more common to refer to civil rights as civil liberties, as there isn’t a formal bill of rights.