Human Rights Statistics: An Overview of Data Sources

Over the years, many institutions and organizations have established databases with information regarding the level of respect for different human rights. Every institution or organization usually focuses on one specific human right, or at most on a well-defined subset of human rights. As I stated here, there is as yet no general “human rights indicator” which would allow us to give a country (or the world) a single score for the level of respect for human rights generally.

Still, it is extremely important to have good data on individual human rights, and in this page I’ll try to list the best available data sources for each human right. In order to do that, I established a stylized set of human rights, derived from the major international human rights instrument which is known as the International Bill of Human Rights (IBHR), comprised of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966).

I separate these rights into the 3 traditional groups of rights - freedom rights, political rights and social and economic rights. For each human right, I list some of the authoritative measurements, if any, and I invite readers to suggest additional sources and to mention quality problems with cited sources. (I included hyperlinks to internet sites, but these links may “die” at some point in time since the owners of the sites may decide to modify these links).

A. Civil rights or freedom rights

1. Equality of rights without discrimination

discrimination at work: ILO
racial discrimination: number of interracial marriages: U.S. Census (U.S. data only)
sexual orientation discrimination: legality of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples: ?; homophobia: ?
gender discrimination: Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, World Bank (see also here), UN Secretary-General’s database on Violence Against Women, OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) (see also here), Gender Info, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Women in Parliament, United Nations Statistics and Indicators on Women and Men, GII
minorities: MAR

2. Life

number of executions: Amnesty International
number of extra-judicial executions: Project on Extrajudicial Executions, CIRI
number of disappearances: CIRI
number of casualties of war: SIPRI, Human Security Report
number of abortions: Guttmacher Institute
legality of abortion: Center for Reproductive Rights
genocide: CIDCM

3. Security and integrity of the person

female genital mutilation: UNICEF
number of hate crimes: FBI (U.S. data only)
number of terrorist attacks: Global Terrorism Database, National Counterterrorism Center
data on military spending and the arms trade: SIPRI
data on violence: WHO, Human Security Report, Cross-National Time-Series Data Archive, Political Terror Scale

4. Protection against slavery, torture and cruel or inhuman punishment (humane treatment when detained)

data on human trafficking: National Institute of Justice
data on prison conditions: King’s College London International Centre for Prison Studies
data on torture: CIRI, U.S. State Department
number of convictions for torture: ?
public opinion on the admissibility of torture: World Public Opinion
data on corporal punishment: Center for Effective Discipline

5. Protection against arbitrary arrest or detention (arrest or detention only on the basis of a law and with prompt notice of the charges)


6. Fair trial

independent, impartial and competent judge: United Nations Surveys on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (CTS)
presumption of innocence until proven guilty: CIRI, U.S. State Department
means necessary for your defense: CIRI, U.S. State Department
the right not to testify against yourself: CIRI, U.S. State Department
“ne bis in idem”, no two convictions or punishments for the same offense: CIRI, U.S. State Department
case reviewed by a higher tribunal: CIRI, U.S. State Department

7. Protection of privacy, family, home and correspondence

Privacy International

8. Freedom of movement and residence

number of immigrants: UN Population Division
number of visa requirements: Henley and Partners
asylum from persecution, protection against arbitrary expulsion of nationals and aliens, the right to leave and return to your country: number of asylum seekers: UNHCR; number of refugees and displaced persons: UNHCR

9. The right to marry and beget a family of your choice

number of forced marriages: ?
number of child marriages: UNICEF

10. The right to own property

International Property Rights Index

11. Freedom of thought and religion

freedom of religion indicators: Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom
prevalence of apostasy laws: ?
prevalence of blasphemy laws: ?

12. Freedom of expression (seeking, receiving and imparting information regardless of borders)

freedom of the press: Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House
number of independent media outlets: ?
number of journalists detained or killed: Reporters Without Borders, CPJ
prevalence of blasphemy laws, lèse majesté laws, holocaust denial laws, pornography laws, libel laws etc.: ?
number of cases of censorship: Wikipedia

13. Freedom of assembly and association (including the right to leave an association)

assembly and association: CIRI
number of political parties: ?
number of NGOs: ?

B. Political rights or democratic rights

1. Political participation, directly and through representatives freely chosen during periodic and genuine elections

Freedom House, Polity IV Project, Global Integrity Report, Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy, Vanhanen, World Bank

2. Equal access to public service, the right to be elected


3. Universal and equal suffrage


4. Citizen participation in elections, voter turnout


5. Secret vote


C. Social, economic and cultural rights

1. Social security, protection for the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled and sick persons


2. A certain standard of living, protection against poverty

World Bank, HDI

3. Work, of your own choice and under favorable conditions

safety at work: ILO
forced labor and slavery: ILO
working conditions: ILO
rest and leisure, length of the working day: ILO

4. Workers’ organization

free trade unions (right to form and join): ILO
right to strike: ?

5. Food, clothing and housing

nutrition and child nutrition: UNICEF, WHOWHOFAO, FAO
homelessness: U.S. Census (U.S. data only)

6. Health care

child mortality rates: WHOUNICEF
maternal mortality rates: WHOUNICEF
life expectancy rates: WHO
number of healthworkers: WHO

7. Special protection for children and mothers

number of child soldiers: Human Rights Watch
data on child labor: ILOILOUNICEF

8. Education


D. Meta-measurements

Apart from these measurements of individual rights, it’s also necessary to mention what I would call “meta-measurements”. These do not measure individual rights, but rather institutions, mentalities and other elements which can indicate or impact the level of respect for human rights:

ratification status of treaties: UN
corruption: Transparency International, Global Integrity Report, World Bank
separation of powers: POLCON
rule of law: World Bank
good governance: World Bank, WGI

One thought on “Human Rights Statistics: An Overview of Data Sources

  1. Pingback: Measuring Human Rights (4): An Overview of Data Sources on Human Rights Violations « P.A.P. Blog – Politics, Art and Philosophy

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