A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important
rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people according to some legal system, social conventi ...
to the citizens of a country. The purpose is to protect those rights against infringement from public officials and private citizens. Bills of rights may be '' entrenched'' or ''unentrenched''. An entrenched bill of rights cannot be amended or repealed by a country's legislature through regular procedure, instead requiring a supermajority or referendum; often it is part of a country's constitution, and therefore subject to special procedures applicable to constitutional amendments. A bill of rights that is ''not entrenched'' is a normal statute law and as such can be modified or repealed by the legislature at will. In practice, not every jurisdiction enforces the protection of the rights articulated in its bill of rights.


The history of legal
charter A charter is the grant of authority or rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to peop ...
s asserting certain rights for particular groups goes back to the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and transitioned into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages i ...
and earlier. An example is
Magna Carta ( Medieval Latin for "Great Charter of Freedoms"), commonly called (also ''Magna Charta''; "Great Charter"), is a royal charter of rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; ...

Magna Carta
, an English legal charter agreed between the King and his barons in 1215. In the early modern period, there was renewed interest in Magna Carta. English common law judge Sir
Edward Coke
Edward Coke
revived the idea of rights based on citizenship by arguing that Englishmen had historically enjoyed such rights. The Petition of Right 1628, the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the Bill of Rights 1689 established certain rights in statute. In America, the English Bill of Rights was one of the influences on the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, which in turn influenced the
United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia Philadelphia, colloquially Philly, is a city in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. It is ...
later that year. After the
Constitution of the United States The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primar ...
was adopted in 1789, the
United States Bill of Rights The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the often bitter 1787–88 debate over the ratification of the Constitution, and written to address the objections rai ...
was ratified in 1791. Inspired by the Age of Enlightenment, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen asserted the universality of rights. It was adopted in 1789 by France's National Constituent Assembly (France), National Constituent Assembly, during the period of the French Revolution. The 20th century saw different groups draw on these earlier documents for influence when drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Exceptions in Western democracies

The constitution of the United Kingdom remains uncodified. However, the Bill of Rights of 1689 is part of UK law. The Human Rights Act 1998 also incorporates the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Recent infringements of liberty, democracy and the rule of law have led to demands for a new comprehensive British Bill of Rights upheld by a new independent Supreme Court with the power to nullify government laws and policies violating its terms

Australia is the only common law country with neither a constitutional nor federal legislative bill of rights to protect its citizens, although there is ongoing debate in many of Australia's states. In 1973, Federal Attorney-General Lionel Murphy introduced a human rights Bill into parliament, although it was never passed. In 1984, Senator Gareth Evans (politician), Gareth Evans drafted a Bill of Rights, but it was never introduced into parliament, and in 1985, Senator Lionel Bowen introduced a bill of rights, which was passed by the Australian House of Representatives, House of Representatives, but failed to pass the Australian Senate, Senate. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has argued against a bill of rights for Australia on the grounds it would transfer power from elected politicians to unelected judges and bureaucrats. Victoria (Australia), Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are the only states and territories to have a human rights Act. However, the principle of legality present in the Australian judicial system, seeks to ensure that legislation is interpreted so as not to interfere with basic human rights, unless legislation expressly intends to interfere..

List of bills of rights


Specifically targeted documents

* Consumer Bill of Rights * Homeless Bill of Rights * Taxpayer Bill of Rights * Academic Bill of Rights, * Veterans' Bill of Rights * G.I. Bill of Rights, better known as the G.I. Bill * North American Conference of Homophile Organizations#Slogan and the Homosexual Bill of Rights, Homosexual Bill of Rights, drafted by North American Conference of Homophile Organizations * Library Bill of Rights, published by the American Library Association * Environmental Bill of Rights or Agenda 21 * Creator's Bill of Rights, comic writers and artists * Donor's Bill of Rights, for philanthropic donors * Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights * California Voter Bill of Rights, adaptation of the Voting Rights Act * Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque * New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act * Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights, contained within the Credit CARD Act of 2009 * Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights (Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act)

See also

*Proposed British Bill of Rights *Inalienable rights *International Bill of Human Rights *International human rights instruments *Natural rights *Rule of law *Second Bill of Rights


{{DEFAULTSORT:Bill Of Rights Constitutional law Rights National human rights instruments