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In the 13th century an important document guaranteeing certain rights to citizens was created in England. The Magna Carta was a statement about people’s civil liberties, guaranteeing certain types of treatment for people and limiting the government’s power to act without reason. By definition, civil liberties are basic freedoms granted to a country’s citizens, usually defined by law and evidenced in government documentation. People need not earn these; citizenship automatically confers them in most cases. Documents like the Magna Carta make explicit this idea and are often viewed as the inspiration for the way later governments would define and limit their powers toward their citizenry.
For Americans, familiarity is greatest with US Constitution. In the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the Constitution, the United States grants people certain civil liberties. Most know at least some of them. People can speak freely, assemble any time they’d like, practice the religion of their choice, carry a weapon, and write what they choose, to name just a few.
Other countries grant similar rights to citizens. France, like America, has civil liberties like freedom of the press and freedom of speech. India has laws protecting some citizens, particularly children against certain forms of exploitative practices. Each country may define types of civil liberties differently, and might at times be more or less likely to actually protect the rights its government documents presumably grant. This is not only true in states that have more limited liberties and a reputation for curtailing them, but also true in some that are celebrated for their permissive stance toward citizenry most of the time.
One of the things that is of issue in many countries is exactly how many civil liberties should be granted and whether any present rights should be removed. In the US there are still arguments over the Second Amendment, which provides the right to bear arms. Those in opposition argue that this right makes no sense in present day context and risks the basic freedoms, like right to live, of other people. Just as passionately, folks may cling to this right, claiming that it is one of their civil liberties and they wish to exercise it, perhaps for self-protection or other reasons.
In many countries, there are people who argue for greater freedoms to be accorded. America continues to fight a battle over who has rights to marry, limiting this freedom to heterosexual couples in most states. Similarly, in more restrictive countries, some people risk their lives to earn basic civil liberties like free speech, peaceful protest, or freedom of assembly.
Ultimately, what exactly constitutes a civil liberty may depend on the country a person calls home. While countries are likely to have fairly similar rights granted, there can be small differences. These differences may or may not be highly significant from a civil liberty’s perspective, enhancing or reducing the freedom of a country’s citizens.
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