Kinds of Rights
Rights can be of many types such as natural, positive, legal etc.
(a) Natural and Legal right
According to some views, certain rights derive from a deity or
nature. Natural rights are rights which are derived from nature. They
are universal; that is, they apply to all people, and do not derive from
the laws of any specific society. They exist necessarily, inhere in every
individual, and can't be taken away. For example, it has been argued
that humans have a natural right to life. They are sometimes called
moral rights or inalienable rights.
Legal rights, in contrast, are based on a society's customs, laws,
statutes or actions by legislature. An example of a legal right is the
right to vote of citizens. Citizenship, itself, is often considered as the
basis for having legal rights, and has been defined as civil rights, the
"right to have rights". Legal rights are sometimes called statutory
rights and are culturally and politically relative since they depend on a
specific societal context to have meaning. Some thinkers see rights
in only one sense while others accept that both senses have a
measure of validity. There has been considerable philosophical debate
about these senses throughout history.
According to Jeremy Bentham legal rights are the essence of
rights, and he denied the existence of natural rights.
According to Thomas Aquinas the rights which were purported by
positive law but not grounded in natural law were not properly rights
at all, but only a facade or pretense of rights.
(b) Positive rights and Negative rights
In one sense, a right is a permission to do something or an
entitlement to a specific service or treatment, and these rights are
called positive rights. However, in another sense, rights may allow or
require inaction, and these are called negative rights; they permit or
require doing nothing. For example, in some democracies e.g. the
United States of America, citizens have the positive right to vote and
they have the negative right not to vote; people can stay home and
watch television instead, if they desire. In other democracies e.g.
Australia, however, citizens have a positive right to vote but they don't
have a negative right to not vote, since non-voting citizens can be
Positive rights are permissions to do things, or entitlements to
be done. One example of a positive right is the purported "right to
Negative rights are permissions not to do things, or entitlements
to be left alone. Often the distinction is invoked by libertarians who
think of a negative right as an entitlement to "non-interference" such
as a right against being assaulted. Though similarly named, positive
and negative rights should not be confused with active rights which
encompass "privileges" and "powers" and passive rights which
encompass "claims" and "immunities"