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Substantive rights are basic human rights possessed by people in an ordered society and include rights granted by natural law as well as substantive laws. Substantive rights involve a right to the substance of being human (life, liberty, happiness), rather than a right to a procedure to enforce that right, which is defined by procedural law. One example of substantive right is substantive equality. Substantive equality is concerned with equality of outcome for all subgroups in society including disadvantaged and marginalized groups.[1][2][3] Substantive rights are contrasted with procedural rights, which are purely formal rules of law that only prescribe how a law ought to be enforced, rather than defining the outcome of a law. One example of procedural rights is formal equality of opportunity.[3]

The substantive rights granted in a society are not universal and change over time,[4] also called human rights inflation. Frequently human rights are connected with the western interpretation of rights with Judeo-Christian and/or Enlightenment heritage.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Cusack, Simone; Ball, Rachel (July 2009). Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Substantive Equality (PDF) (Report). Public Interest Law Clearing House and Human Rights Law Resource Centre Ltd. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 6, 2022.
  2. ^ "What is substantive equality?" (PDF). Equal Opportunity Commission, Government of Western Australia. November 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b De Vos, M. (2020). The European Court of Justice and the march towards substantive equality in European Union anti-discrimination law. International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, 20(1), 62-87.
  4. ^ Theilen, Jens T. (2021). "The inflation of human rights: A deconstruction". Leiden Journal of International Law. 34 (4): 831–854. doi:10.1017/S0922156521000297. ISSN 0922-1565. It is remarkable, in particular, how consistently socio-economic human rights in the form of welfare rights have been denied the status of 'real' human rights on the basis of the anti-inflation mindset.
  5. ^ Shaheed, Ahmed; Richter, Rose Parris (October 17, 2018). "Is 'Human Rights' a Western Concept?". IPI Global Observatory. Archived from the original on July 10, 2022. Retrieved August 11, 2022.