What are the basic rights and responsibilities of a citizen?
A citizen of any democratic country has so many rights and responsibilities. Most of these rights and responsibilities are the same for all democratic countries. In countries where democracy doesn’t exist, citizens tend to have lesser rights and more responsibilities than in countries where democracy is present. For example, the citizens of the United States (a country where democracy is very strong) enjoy more rights than the citizens of countries such as North Korea and Sudan (countries where democracy virtually doesn’t exist). Also, in certain countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc, women don’t have the same rights as men. In these same countries and several other countries, the rights of gays and lesbians aren’t respected. In some of these countries one can even be sentenced to death for being a homosexual. But that is another topic for another day. In this article, we just want to focus our attention on the basic rights and responsibilities of citizens of democratic countries. The reason I am stressing on democratic countries is simply because like I said earlier, citizens of countries where democracy isn’t practiced tend to have some of their basic human rights taken away from them.
Difference between rights and responsibilities
Before we delve into the rights and responsibilities of citizens, let us first take a moment to understand what rights verses responsibilities are.
Rights can be defined as the freedoms and advantages that the constitution allows everyone to enjoy.
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English also defines rights as – “something that you are morally, legally, or officially allowed to do or have.”
Responsibilities, on the other hand, can be defined as the duties that a person must do and which the person can be answerable for.
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines responsibilities as – “something that you ought to do because it is morally or socially right.”
Simply put, any duties or obligations that a person must do are his or her responsibilities.
Basic Rights of a citizen
- Right to life: All citizens have the right to life. The constitution prevents anyone from being killed intentionally by another person or group of persons except he or she has committed a grave offence and has been given the death sentence by a court through the due process of law.
- Equality before the law: All citizens shall be equal before the law.
- The right to freedom from slavery and servitude: All citizens have the right not to be made slaves.
- The right to a fair hearing: A citizen who has been charged with a crime has the right to be given a fair hearing in a law court in order for him or her to defend himself or herself.
- Right to own property: Every citizen has the right to own legal property either alone or with others.
- Right to work: All citizens have the right to engage in legal work under conditions that are satisfactory, healthy, and safe.
- Right to vote: All citizens have the right to vote and to be voted for.
- Freedom of religion: Under freedom of religion, all citizens have the right to join any religion of their choosing or decide not to join any religion.
- Right to education: Every citizen (regardless of whether male or female) has the right to be educated and enjoy all educational opportunities the country has to offer.
- Freedom from discrimination: All citizens have the right not to be discriminated against based on their gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc.
- Freedom of expression: Under freedom of expression or speech, all citizens have the political right to say their opinions and ideas.
- Right to personal liberty: All citizens have the right not to be held captive or imprisoned without fair trial.
- Mobility rights: Under mobility rights, citizens of a country have the right to move to any part of the country to live.
NOTE: In many countries where democracy isn’t practiced, some citizens don’t enjoy some of the rights mentioned above.
Responsibilities of citizens
- Defending the country’s constitution: One of the major responsibilities of citizens is to defend the constitution of their respective countries. Defending the constitution is very important since the constitution protects the rights of citizens.
- Paying taxes: All citizens have the duty to pay their taxes to the government. Taxes are very important since without taxes, governments can’t run their countries.
- Respecting the rights and freedoms of other citizens: All citizens have the responsibility to respect the rights of one another. This therefore means that citizens should not infringe on the rights of others. This is very important since it allows for peace to prevail in the country.
- Responsibility to know the law: It’s every citizen’s responsibility to know the law since ignorance of the law is no excuse.
- Protecting public property: It is the responsibility of a citizen to protect all public property.
- Abiding by the law: Every citizen has the responsibility to abide by all the laws of the country.
- Assisting the police: It is the responsibility of a citizen to assist the police the best way he or she can during an investigation. This includes giving police useful information in order to help the police reduce the crime rate in the country. In assisting the police, citizens can also help in arresting their fellow citizens who break the laws. This is what is known as citizen’s arrest. For example, if you see a person trying to rob an elderly woman and you catch the person and present them to the police, you are said to have made a citizen’s arrest.
- Helping in the administration of justice: All citizens have the responsibility to help the judiciary (the courts) in the administration of justice. In doing this, a citizen in possession of evidence should provide it at court. Also, a citizen who witnessed a crime should not hesitate bearing witness in the law court in order to establish the truth in a case.
- Obeying the laws of the country: All citizens have the responsibility to obey all the laws of their country.
- Participating in the democratic process: All citizens have the responsibility to participate in the democratic process of their country. In doing this, all citizens, who are of sound mind and have reached the age required to vote, have the responsibility to vote to elect leaders during elections.
- Protecting your environment and keeping it clean: Every citizen has the responsibility to keep his or her environment clean and avoid engaging in things that will harm the environment. In doing this, a good citizen will always endeavor to honor communal labor.
- Defending the country: All citizens have the responsibility to defend their country when the need arises.
The rights and responsibilities of citizens that have been mentioned above are the same in majority of countries all over the world – especially democratic countries. Also, it is worth noting that these rights and responsibilities are not the only ones that exist in these countries. These are just the most common and basic of them.