What Are Personal Rights?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Personal rights are legal rights people have over their own bodies. These rights are protected in both civil and criminal law, and in some cases they are included in documents like constitutions and charters. Infringements upon personal rights can result in penalties like fines, as well as prison time, depending on the type of infringement involved.

The law provides protection for people who are victims of crimes like slander and defamation.
The law provides protection for people who are victims of crimes like slander and defamation.

Some rights include the right to personal safety; things like assault and battery are considered crimes because they are violations of personal rights. People can extend this to requesting protective orders to keep dangerous people away, legally pursuing people who threaten them without actually causing physical harm, and suing people who endanger their personal safety.

Also included is the idea of reputation and community standing. People rely on their reputations to find housing and work, in addition to participating in community life. If someone's reputation is damaged because someone distributes untruths or make scurrilous accusations, the victim can sue on the grounds that personal rights have been violated. The law provides protection for people who are victims of crimes like slander and defamation.

Some nations also consider the right to privacy to be a personal right. Privacy laws surrounding medical and financial records rely on this principle, on the argument that people have a right to reasonably expect privacy when conducting personal business. Disclosure of personal information, even if it does not harm a person's reputation, is a violation of the right to privacy. Privacy has also been used as the grounds for protecting the right to access controversial medical procedures.

Different countries have varying approaches to these rights. People like children and prisoners may not enjoy the same protections as law abiding adults. For individuals like children, as well as people deemed legally incompetent, abridgments of rights are deemed necessary for safety, so that guardians can make decisions on their behalf secure in the knowledge that they have all the information they need to make those decisions. In the case of prisoners, personal rights like the freedom to travel and the right to free association are suspended in the interests of being able to legally sentence them to time in jail or prison.

Understanding the scope and limitations of all legal rights in an individual nation can be important for people navigating the legal system. It is important to be aware of how and when these rights apply, so people can take steps to protect and enforce their rights when they are being violated.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Crispety - I think that we know too much about these people and while they use the press for publicity when it suits them that same press reveals unsavory things about them as well. It is like a double edge sword.

You really have to take the good with the bad because if you put yourself out there and then you are fair game as far as the press is concerned and no personal bill of rights will change that.


@Icecream17 -I know what you mean and sometimes these programs can be used against the reality star. For example, on one of these reality franchise shows one of the participants was getting a very high profile divorce and the wife’s actions on the show did a lot to damage her reputation which will ultimately help her husband that is seeking the divorce.

He encouraged her to go on the show way before he served her with divorce papers. It makes me wonder if this was his intent all along so that he would have better standing during the divorce proceedings.


@Sneakers41- I could not agree with you more. I often wonder about the children that are portrayed in these shows. What type of child protection are they afforded? They are minors and cannot consent to the invasion of privacy that their parents agreed to.

I think that reality shows really harm the people that are on these shows because most are publicly ridiculed and like regular celebrities all of their actions and personal business become news for all to see. I think that my privacy is too valuable to give up for a few moments of fame.


I have to say that what I find interesting is the amount of personal information that is revealed in some of these reality shows. While I understand that we all have our right to privacy but many of the participants waive these personal rights when they go on these reality shows.

For example, a notable reality show franchise will display the lives of several women featured and their interaction with each other that leaves the viewer feeling less sympathetic to them. These people cannot claim any sort of slander because they are putting themselves out there in the most unflattering light.

Many of the women featured on these shows appear to live an opulent lifestyle until you find out that there home was auctioned off or they had to sell their home as a short sale because they could not afford the payments any longer. One of these women even had over eleven million dollars in debt which was a real tragedy.

I think that when you put yourself in the public eye like this your personal rights to privacy and even your reputation can come into question.

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