Universalism, in the context of human rights, refers to the belief that human rights are applicable to all individuals universally, regardless of their nationality, culture, religion, or any other characteristic. It asserts that human rights are not relative or culturally determined but are fundamental and inherent to all human beings.

Equality and non-discrimination: Universalism asserts that all individuals possess equal rights and dignity. It rejects any form of discrimination or differentiation in the enjoyment of human rights based on factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or social status. Human rights are seen as applicable to all individuals, without exception.

Inherent and inalienable: Universalism holds that human rights are intrinsic to human beings by virtue of their humanity. They are not granted or revocable by any authority, government, or cultural context. Human rights are considered inalienable and cannot be taken away or forfeited.

Universality of human rights standards: Universalism recognises that human rights standards are applicable to all states and individuals universally. The principles enshrined in international human rights instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and international human rights treaties, are seen as universally valid and binding on all states, irrespective of their cultural or political differences.

Protection of vulnerable groups: Universalism emphasises the protection of vulnerable groups and individuals who may be at greater risk of human rights violations due to their social, economic, or political circumstances. It calls for equal protection and access to rights for marginalised and disadvantaged populations, including women, children, ethnic minorities, refugees, and persons with disabilities.

International human rights framework: Universalism finds expression in the international legal framework of human rights. It recognises the authority of international human rights institutions and mechanisms, such as treaty bodies, special rapporteurs, and international courts, in promoting and protecting human rights universally. These mechanisms monitor state compliance, investigate violations, and provide remedies for individuals whose rights have been violated.

While universalism forms the foundation of human rights, challenges and debates arise regarding its implementation. Critics argue that cultural relativism or national sovereignty should take precedence over universal human rights standards. They contend that cultural differences and specific contexts should be considered when applying human rights principles. However, proponents of universalism argue that universality does not negate cultural diversity but recognises that certain core principles and values transcend cultural variations and should be respected universally.

Universalism in human rights strives to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, enjoy the same fundamental rights and protections. It promotes a vision of a just and equal world where human rights are upheld and respected for everyone.
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