Defining “human rights” is a tricky subject; that is why we spend the first week in class on precisely that. Leaving some rights out may give license and cover to oppressors. On the other hand, including too many rights can put too much of a burden on human rights defenders and break the system, because there will be many more “violations” than anyone can monitor and sanction. Also, most people consider human rights to be “universal” and broadening that list gives ammunition to those who claim human rights are in fact a cover for Western dominance.
This article in Foreign Policy makes the first kind of criticism toward our current expanding notion of human rights. For me the most interesting part was about how dictators benefit from this phenomenon of categorizing more and more things as human rights. According to the author (Pedro Pizano):
“Chronic rights abusers have an interest in diluting rights to the point where the whole concept loses its meaning.”