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Human Rights Issues

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An index of tropes relating to human rights - violations of them, or struggles for them.


  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Forcing someone to get married with questionable or no consent, or denying them the right of a divorce out of a bad marriage, is illegal in most contemporary societies.
  • Artistic License – Child Labor Laws: Kids are shown working despite being too young to work in real life.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A violation of human rights in which a person is subjected to physical or mental pain by another. This is illegal under international law as well as under the laws of most nations.
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  • Child Soldiers: When a military organization places children in combat situations which they are too young to handle. Often these children are forced to fight against their will, and many suffer mental trauma long after the fact.
  • Culture Justifies Anything: Every human being has human rights as an individual - rights that are not nullified by the concept of cultural rights. This dissonance is what makes "Culture Justifies Anything" a trope.
  • Death Means Humanity: A non-human being has its personhood recognized upon death.
  • Dehumanization: Where a certain group has their humanity ignored to make them easier to oppress.
  • Domestic Abuse: Violence against a spouse or partner, child, parent, etc. Sometimes, it's treated less as a crime and more as a private spat, or even "justified".
  • Fair for Its Day: When a work, act, or policy is considered better than that of its predecessors but still unacceptably backward by current standards.
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  • Fantastic Ghetto: The segregation of another species just for looking too different.
  • Fantastic Racism: Issues of racism and similar conflicts handled through fictional races of (non-)human people as a metaphor.
  • Fantastic Underclass: A group forced into the poorest and most despised level of a fictional society due to racial prejudice, an oppressive caste system, or punishment under a brutal legal system.
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: Humans restricting the use of some acts of magical or futuristic warfare due to being in violation of human rights.
  • Final Solution: Genocide — the deliberate mass-murder in whole or in part of an entire ethnic, cultural, national, or religious group — is often considered the ultimate violation of human rights.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: The idea that abortion is unethical is a hotly debated issue in the modern world. The groups that support legalized abortion argue that it is the right of a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, while the groups that oppose legalized abortion argue that the practice violates the child's right to life. Both groups believe that they are the ones defending human rights.
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  • Honor-Related Abuse: Violence against a (usually female) family member as a means of restoring the family's "honor".
  • Human Traffickers: Criminals who deny any rights their victims have by buying and selling them as slaves.
  • Humans Kill Wantonly: Humanity defined by its disregard for human rights.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: Humans denying aliens or magical creatures the same rights they enjoy, based on them being something else than human.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: The crime of perfidy, which is pretending to have a surrender or truce in order to make a surprise attack.
  • Karmic Rape: The idea that someone "deserves" to be raped. Supporters of international human rights reject this notion, and press for laws that protect criminals from Prison Rape.
  • Living is More Than Surviving: There are things beyond basic human needs that make a life, among them being, well, their rights.
  • Made a Slave: Capturing people with the sole intention of turning them into private property for the sake of forcing them to work without pay, as well as selling them for profit (known as chattel slavery), is illegal in all countries.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: You must produce offspring, whether you want to or not.
  • Marital Rape License: A human rights violation in which someone rapes their spouse. It is still accepted and even legal in some places.
  • Might Makes Right: The idea that the desires of a perceived strong or triumphant party supersede the rights of everyone else.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Violates the right of the child, as the child is too young to consent to sexual activity. Since these marriages are often arranged by the child's parents, the child also loses the right to choose her own husband.
  • Police Brutality: When the police engage in far more physical force than is absolutely necessary to deal with suspected criminals or law-abiding citizens, then they may be violating numerous civil/human rights that they are supposed to respect per the rule of law.
  • Pride Parade: Marching for LGBT rights and to celebrate sexual/gender diversity.
  • Prison Rape: A rampant human rights abuse common in the prisons of both fiction and real life. Oftentimes it is joked about in media, purposely ignored by prison guards, or otherwise treated as something prisoners deserve. While there have been some efforts to prevent this, progress is slow.
  • Public Execution: Capital punishment / death penalty is a very controversial subject for many reasons. Even putting aside the ethical concerns of whether or not society's very worst criminals who are truly guilty of irredeemably evil crimes deserve to continue living after what they've done, there's also the fact that many people in various times and places have been sentenced to death for nonviolent offenses such as being a petty thief or drug addict, holding illegal political/religious beliefs, or just simply being a persecuted minority. Not to mention that innocent people have been wrongfully convicted and then executed for crimes they didn't even do.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Due to the immense and long-lasting suffering rape causes to the victim, it is considered a severe violation of human rights and is illegal in almost all nations.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: When soldiers murder civilians, sexually assault civilians, destroy property, steal property, or otherwise harm the defenseless. Often called "sacking" or "raiding", in modern times this is a crime punishable by imprisonment or death.
  • Rape Portrayed as Redemption: Use of rape as a punishment.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: When part of a country's population rises up against the established government with the hopes of radically changing it, and when said uprising is willing to violate human rights in order to achieve its goals. Even revolutions are subject to international laws, and should be held to basic ethical standards like anyone else.
  • Sink The Life Boats: When soldiers go out of their way to kill the surviving crew of a destroyed vehicle who are no longer a threat, a human rights violation.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: As slavery reduces human beings to property and is associated with multiple other atrocities, it is seen as an extreme violation of human rights.
  • Superhuman Trafficking: People trafficking, but with super-powered people.
  • Totally 18: Human rights policies defining "child" as "anyone younger than 18" is one of the underlying reasons for why this trope (with 18 being the exact number) has become so universal over the last few decades.
  • Traumatic C-Section: The once-common practice of cutting open pregnant civilian women, the idea being that you're killing two enemies at once. This is now forbidden by international law.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Unjustified violence against innocent people who just happen to be considered "monsters".
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Abstaining from violating human rights seen as something special rather than a requirement.
  • War Crime Subverts Heroism: Human rights violations during war, often due to the absence of international laws or due to said laws being ignored.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: How to define the "human" aspect of "human rights"?
  • The Women Are Safe with Us: When soldiers refuse to sexually assault female civilians or POWs, or when their officers forbid them to. This has become mandatory by international laws.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": When a genocide is ignored, forgotten, covered up, or treated as justified. This results in the victims of genocide being deprived of justice, dignity, and often forgotten. It also makes it easier for future genocides to occur.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: When soldiers refuse to harm non-combatants, or when their officers forbid them to. This is is, of course, mandatory by international laws, as well as by the laws of most modern nations.
  • Zombie Advocate: Fighting for the rights of non-human beings.