Welcome to our second post on Know Your Rights media project.

Our interest today is to understand what constitutes rights for an individual, and how this relates to other peoples rights. As usual, we shall begin with a story.

Evelyn and Sandra were very good friends. It happened that both friends became pregnant with Sandra being in her 9th month and Evelyn 2 months and 2 weeks less. One day, they both got into hot quarrel which eventually led to a fight. In the process, Sandra gave Evelyn a heavy kick on her pultruded stomach. Both friends developed pregnancy complications as result of the fight. Sandra immediately went into labour, was rushed to the hospital and delivered a baby girl with much ease. On her part, Evelyn equally got into premature labour and had to be forced to deliver a premature baby girl through C-session. For Evelyn, it was a narrow escape as both mother and child nearly missed chances. Evelyns husband is furious and wants Sandra to pay for the problems she caused, including the pains and trauma he went through during the trying times for his wife. Sandra and her husband believes the problems wouldnt have arose were it not for Evelyns running mouth. The neighbours who witnessed the fight, and many of whom had to assist the women to access help were equally disappointed of the duos public nuisance

About this story, we might ask:

$Does Sandra have a right to react to provocation?

$To what extent can she react?

$Do the two women need to consider the impacts of their actions (fighting) on others (the babies in their wombs, their husbands and the neighbours)?

These questions are key to understanding the scope and nature of rights as personified realities. It is true that as an individual human person, I am meant to enjoy certain rights/privileges without inhibition. But how are my rights related to those of others in my web of relationships? For instance, under the pretence of freedom of expression (enshrined in Nigerian Constitution and laws), many believe that they can go about saying anything about any person regardless of the truth-content of their expressions. Such a people represents Evelyn in the story above; they seem to possess running mouths. In similar nature, the rights to self-preservation covered in international instruments like UN Universal Declaration, article 3 (right to life, liberty, personal security), is sometimes interpreted to include unbridled act of self-defence at the slightest provocation. This is the case of Sandra in the story. She and her husband felt justified on the ground that Sandra acted out of provocation.

The point missed by these people (the Evelyns and Sandras) is that rights and responsibilities are co-extensive. They always go hand-in-hand; hence, the saying, YOUR RIGHTS STOP WHERE MINE BEGIN. While rights are fundamental privileges that are everyones due, they are never absolute in the sense that it considers relationships. This is why Okpara Okpara writes in Human Rights: Law & Practice in Nigeria (2005:42) that every human being is both the subject and object of rights. As subject, the being is expected to initiate actions to further the respects of rights, and as object, the being is a recipient of respects of rights. If we understand this correctly then, as we demand respect of our rights from others, we would equally deem it fit to extend it to others.

Consequently, it is important to highlight the responsibilities of the two women to the babies in their womb. Especially, in the context of Nigerian law which considers the foetus, though not as a human person, but criminalizes any act with intent to cause harm to the unborn child (covered in both Criminal and Penal Code, and the Constitution which is admittedly pro-life).

In the foregoing, it seems appropriate to assert thus, that taking care to respect the rights of others go a long way to promote ours. It works this way. If everyone respects everyone elses rights, individuals rights become safeguarded.

To conclude, let us take note of our take-away point: if human rights is everyones due privileges, then, no one is meant to suffer any disadvantage with regard to respecting rights. But this can only happen if people have appropriate attitude to rights consideration; it is one that always bear in mind the responsibility to respect the rights of others.

Thank you for the read, and please, share/like our posts/page. Also, dont hoard your thoughts about our posts; comment and let us know what you think.

Contributors: C. O. Ikegbunam Esq.
C. A. Nwankwo Esq.
D. A. Okoliko

[Picture: Nairaland]

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