Difference Between Rights and Duties

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Rights and Duties

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It’s common to see the terms rights and duties used interchangeably, but they have different meanings that may not be obvious to everyone.

A right refers to a legal entitlement or immunity granted by law, while a duty refers to an obligation (a responsibility) that someone has under the law or under an agreement they have made with another party (such as an employer). In other words, rights protect us from actions taken by others, whereas duties are actions we are expected to take in our own lives.

A right is a legal or moral entitlement to have or obtain something or act in a certain way. It usually implies that there is an authority figure who must provide it, so if you have a right to free speech, you should be able to exercise that right by speaking freely (without fear of punishment). A duty is something we're supposed to do out of moral obligation—it may not be required by law, but failing to live up to your duties can lead others to hold you accountable (think about our duty as citizens and voters).

Some examples: You have a right not to be tortured; you have a duty not to torture others. You have a right to vote; you must pay taxes. You have a right to own property; you have a duty not to destroy other people’s property. And so on.

Rights are often associated with freedoms while duties are often associated with responsibilities. But they aren't always separate concepts—you have a right to freedom of religion, for example, which includes both freedoms from religious persecution and freedom to practice your religion without interference from government or other institutions.

When rights and duties come into conflict, rights tend to take precedence over duties (and vice versa), but things get complicated when one person's right infringes upon another person's duty.

For example, let's say I'm at work and I have a responsibility to finish my work on time—but I also have a right to free speech. If I use my work computer to write an editorial condemning my boss for mismanaging company funds, am I violating my employer's rights or my own? Or does each party retain their respective rights/duties under these circumstances? There isn't always a clear answer! We hope you've found these basic definitions helpful in understanding what rights and duties mean. Next week, we'll look at some more specific examples of how rights and duties play out in real life.

Difference Between Rights and Duty in Tabular Form

Rights Duty
A right is a power or guarantees moved by a person to follow through with something The obligation is a commitment to do or discard to follow through with something
Right is an interest perceived and safeguarded by the state The obligation is a commitment made and forced by the state
Each lawful right has a comparing obligation Each legitimate obligation has not a comparing right
An individual whose right's identity is abused can go to court for a cure An individual who has not full filled his obligation is exposed to the discipline
An individual is allowed to not practice his privileges An individual isn't allowed to not satisfy his obligations
Freedoms help to control others’ activity according to claim wish Obligation forces commitments to go about according to others will
On the off chance that an individual didn't practice his right then he can't be expected to take responsibility for discipline On the off chance that an individual didn't fulfil his duties then he is at risk of discipline
Privileges give an individual with the opportunity Obligations limit an individual opportunity
For example:  The right to life and liberty For example: Paying taxes.

What are Rights?

Rights are claims to ownership over something, or certain actions being performed by someone else. A right is a moral principle defining certain conditions under which a human being should be allowed to do things that are otherwise forbidden by ethics or law (that is, freedom).

It is considered to be one of two ways to analyze behavior; the other way is known as duties or obligations. When you have a right, you can act without needing anyone’s permission. The only limitation on your rights is that they must not conflict with anyone else’s rights. In general, all people have equal rights in every country and community around the world.

For example, we all have a right to life, liberty, and property in most countries around the world today.

The Concept of Rights

The concept of rights has been central to political philosophy since ancient times when it was referred to as natural rights. Natural rights were believed to exist before the government, and could not be taken away by the government because they were natural or God-given.

Today many countries recognize human rights, which are similar to but broader than natural rights because they apply regardless of government involvement. Human rights include civil and political rights such as freedom from torture, freedom of speech, and freedom from slavery; economic, social, and cultural rights such as a right to education; and collective rights such as a right to self-determination for ethnic groups.

Governments can also create new human rights in some circumstances—for example, women’s suffrage is a relatively recent human right that did not exist until governments passed laws allowing women to vote.

Some philosophers have argued that there is no distinction between natural or human rights on one hand and legal or positive (created by society) duties on the other hand.

Nature of Rights

  1. Rights exist just in the public eye. These are the results of social living.
  2. Rights are cases of the people for their advancement in the public arena.
  3. Rights are perceived by the general public as normal cases of the relative multitude of individuals.
  4. Rights are normal and moral cases that individuals make on their general public.
  5. Since Rights here are just in the public arena, these can't be practiced against the general public.
  6. Rights are to be practiced by individuals for their improvement which truly implies their advancement in the public arena by the advancement of social great. Privileges can never be practiced against social great.
  7. Rights are similarly accessible to every individual.
  8. The items in rights continue to change with the progression of time.

Types of Rights

  1. Natural Right: These type of rights do not depend on any form of culture or government. Therefore, these are often considered as universal.
  2. Moral Right: Moral rights are freedoms of makers of protected works commonly perceived in common regulation wards and, less significantly, in a few customary regulation locales
  3. Legal Rights: A legal right is an interest accepted and protected by law. Three types of legal rights:
  • Civil Rights
    • Freedom of speech.
    • Freedom of the press.
    • Freedom of religion.
    • Freedom to vote.
    • Freedom against unwarranted searches of your home or property.
    • Freedom to have a fair court trial.
    • Freedom to remain silent in a police interrogation.
  • Political Rights
    • Right to Liberty and Security of the Person.
    • Right to Equal Protection Before the Law.
    • Right to Freedom of Assembly.
    • Right to be Free from Torture.
    • Right to Freedom of Expression.
    • Freedom from Discrimination.
    • Access to the Judicial System.
    • Participation in Political Life.
  • Economical Rights
    • The Right to Work (Article 6)
    • The Right to a Fair Wage and Safe Working Conditions (Article 7)
    • The Right to Form and Join Trade Unions (Article 8)
    • The Right to Social Security (Article 9)
    • The Rights of the Family (Article 10)
    • The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living (Article 11)

What are Duties?

A duty is a responsibility or assumption to play out some activity overall or then again in the event that specific conditions emerge. An obligation might emerge from an arrangement of morals or ethical quality, particularly in an honor culture. Numerous obligations are made by regulation, at times including a systematized discipline or responsibility for non-execution

There are three types of duties:

Mandatory Duties

It requires us to act in some specific way, such as paying taxes or obeying laws.

Prohibitive Duties

It forbids us from doing something, such as committing murder or stealing another person’s belongings.

Permissive Duties

It allows us to do something but don't require it—such as driving a car at 55 miles per hour instead of 60 miles per hour if we so choose. As with rights, there may be exceptions to these rules depending on who is involved and what their circumstances may be at any given time.

For example, children and teenagers often have different responsibilities than adults. Similarly, individuals living in poverty may be subject to more restrictions than those living comfortably. Finally, special consideration is often made for individuals with disabilities or illnesses that affect their ability to make choices for themselves.

List of Responsibilities an Individual Should Fulfil

  1. Personal Responsibility i.e. Responsibility towards Yourself
  2. Responsibility towards Your Family
  3. Responsibility as a Student
  4. Responsibility towards Work
  5. Responsibility as a Citizen towards Your Country
  6. Responsibility towards Humanity

Main Differences Between Rights and Duties in Points

  • Rights are privileges, and duties are responsibilities that people have to each other.
  • Rights come from groups of people (i.e., countries), but duties come from individuals or subgroups of people within a country.
  • Rights protect our liberties and freedoms, while duties protect and ensure good citizenship within a country or group
  •  A right is that which you possess as a defence against the world, where as a duty is that obligation which devolves upon you as an incident of the right
  • Duties are requirements you must legally or ethically meet, Where as Rights are of two types, natural rights you have just by existing as a human being, and rights granted by a government, other organization or person.

For example, we have a duty to vote in an election because our government has given us that right to vote; we don't have a right to health care in America (therefore, no one else has any duties towards it).


Every person has a right to live and breathe, but not every right is a duty; rights are inherent whereas duties must be carried out. In other words, we can’t violate our rights, but we can violate our duties. A person can, however, lose their rights under certain circumstances (e.g., if they commit treason against their country or are deemed unfit to take care of themselves).

Three types of rights:

  • Legal (which pertain to laws),
  • Moral (which pertain to ethics),
  • Natural (which exists in nature).

Duties are more subjective than rights, which means that different people will hold different opinions on them. Some may feel that voting is a duty while others may disagree. Some might think that paying taxes is a moral obligation while others believe it’s only mandatory by law. And some may say that you have no responsibility to help those less fortunate than you, while many would say otherwise.

Ultimately, defining your responsibilities depends on how you define them—but remember that these don't always coincide with your legal or moral obligations!

For example, most parents feel that it’s both a legal and moral duty to support their children financially when possible. On top of that, your rights often depend on whether you live in a democracy or authoritarian regime—for example, public dissent isn’t allowed in countries like North Korea because free speech isn’t considered a right there. It all comes down to what you consider right based on your life experiences, upbringing, culture/society, etc  

Remember: If something seems wrong or unfair to you then chances are it probably is wrong or unfair--even if everyone else thinks differently!



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"Difference Between Rights and Duties." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 27 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-rights-and-duties-383>.

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