Human Rights Dissertation Topics


In an age where people post everything about themselves, where does their privacy begin? If this is a subject that intrigues you, maybe take a look at some of these examples:

Example privacy dissertation topic 1:

Big Brother and the realisation of Orwell’s 1984.

What does the government really know about all of us? In an age where the government has powers of gathering and keeping information on the individual beyond that ever achieved before, this dissertation looks at the implication of state surveillance on human rights. This dissertation explores the present laws and regulations on the indefinite storage of fingerprints and DNA, regardless of conviction, and possible reforms in light of the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in S & Marper v. United Kingdom. Further, this dissertation examines the proposed new strategy for requiring communications firms to record all internet contacts between people in an attempt to allow the security services greater access to people’s personal interactions.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Campbell, L. (2011). ‘Non-conviction DNA databases in the United States and England: Historical differences, current convergences?’, The International Journal of Evidence & Proof, Vol. 15(4), pp. 281-310.
  • Dobson, J. E. and Fisher, P. F. (2007). ‘The Panopticon’s changing geography’, Geographical Review, Vol. 97(3), pp. 307-323.
  • Gonzalez-Fuster, G., de Hert, P., Ellyne, E. and Gutwirth, S. (2010). Huber, Marper and Others: Throwing new light on the shadows of suspicion. Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies.


Whether it is social media, television or the internet as a whole, the rights people have with their internet footprint is a very exciting topic to investigate! If you know you are interested in this topic but are not sure where to start, take a look at some of our suggestions:

Example media dissertation topic 1:

Twitter: A right to be heard or a right to be prosecuted?

Under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 persons are prohibited from sending ‘a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character’. The Act has allowed in recent times the prosecution and charge of many so-called “internet trolls”. Such prosecutions have attracted custodial sentences, resulting in distasteful comments being jailable offences. In an age where the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates Article 10, the freedom of expression, into British law, it is concerning that a person’s right to be distasteful is not upheld. This dissertation considers whether given the implications that section 127 has on the freedom of speech in UK law do conform to Hall’s evocative description of freedom of speech: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Geach, N. and Haralambous, N. (2009). ‘Regulating harassment: Is the law fit for the social networking age?’, The Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 73(3), pp. 241-257.
  • Gillespie, A.A. (2012). ‘Twitter, jokes and the law’, The Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 76(5), pp. 364-369.
  • Glanville, J. (ed.) (2011). Privacy is dead! Index on censorship, Vol. 40(2). London: SAGE.

Example media dissertation topic 2:

To blog or not to blog: The plight of the UK judiciary.

In a recent decision the Senior Presiding Judge set new guidelines banning judges from blogging as just that: judges, as the purported new guidance states that, ‘blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, officer holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary’. Moreover, the guidelines allow for the retrospective discipline of judges who failed to remove previously posted judicial blogs. This dissertation investigates whether, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, judges in the UK can – or should be – banned from blogging in a manner that identifies that they hold judicial office. Finally, the paper explores the differences between judges writing books – per the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Sedley – and using social media.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • O’Brien, A. (2009). ‘Are attorneys and judges one Tweet, blog or friend request away from facing a disciplinary committee?’, Loyola Journal of Public and International Law, 11, p. 511.
  • Sedley, S. (2011). Ashes and sparks: Essays on law and justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wagner, A. (2012). ‘Let the judges blog’, UK Human Rights Blog, One Crown Office Row, available at:


The rights of all genders should be protected so you if you are interested in investigating this further within a dissertation, maybe these examples will help:

Example gender dissertation topic 1:

I’m not sick, I’m just not meant to be a man: How the Gender Recognition Act 2004 fails to accord transgender persons adequate human rights.

Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, section 2(1)(a) requires that in order to be granted a gender recognition certificate the applicant must be found to have or have had gender dysphoria, among other requirements. The NHS defines gender dysphoria as a recognised medical condition, much like homosexuality was once defined medically as a mental illness. This dissertation considers whether, by continuing to support the theory that transgender peoples suffer from a form of medical abnormality, the Gender Recognition Act fails to afford transgender people with the same rights as others.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Barrett, J. (2007). Transsexual and other disorders of gender identity: A practical guide to management. Abingdon: Radcliffe.
  • Jeffreys, S. (2008). ‘They know it when they see it: The UK Gender Recognition Act 2004’, The British Journal of Politics & International Relations, Vol. 10(2), pp. 328-345.
  • Sharpe, A.N. (2007). ‘Endless sex: The Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the persistence of a legal category’, Feminist Legal Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 57-84.

Example gender dissertation topic 2:

4. Men in the workplace face the same type of gender stereotypes as women; the difference is that no-one fights for men.

This dissertation looks at the argument that, like women, men face discrimination based on outdated stereotypes. It is argued that in order to survive in the modern workplace men must live up to the traditional stereotypes of working late hours and leaving the raising of a family to their wives. Unlike women, however, men are often left to face such stereotypes without the full protection of the law. Moreover, in an age of overt child protection there are concerns that not enough males are entering the primary teaching profession because of fears of allegations and a lack of protection. Looking at two distinct professions and practitioners in Manchester (male primary teachers and chartered accountants) this dissertation addresses a number of work-related rights.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cameron, C. (2006). ‘Men in the nursery revisited: Issues of male workers and professionalism’, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Vol. 7(1), pp. 68-79.
  • Cushman, P. (2005). ‘Will a revised code of practice change the practices of male teachers in their interactions with children?’, The New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work, Vol. 2(2), pp. 83-93.
  • Lewis, J. and Campbell, M. (2007). ‘UK work/family balance policies and gender equality, 1997-2005’, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, Vol. 14(1), pp. 4-30.

Ethnicity and Race

If you are more interested in the rights of certain ethnicities or a specific race then this may be a good choice for your dissertation! Take a look at some examples:

Example ethnicity and race dissertation topic 1:

5. Should ‘minority group’ representation be allocated to the majority too?

In many organisations, whether student unions or international corporations, minority groups are spoken for by special representatives. However, the more minority groups that are identified, the higher the number of minority representatives appointed. This dissertation asks whether, by appointing minority representatives, the majority voice becomes not weaker, but obliterated. This thesis explores whether such special representation of every minority creates an even playing field, as was originally intended, or makes it more uneven. In addition to a comprehensive literature review, the paper undertakes extensive primary analysis of more than fifty student unions (of universities throughout the UK), and five parliamentary inquiries. This is an exciting topic in an area of human rights little explored in the UK.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bishin, B.G. (2009). The tyranny of the minority: The subconstituency politics theory of representation. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
  • Carroll, S. J. and Jenkins, K. (2005). ‘Increasing diversity or more of the same? Term limits and the representation of women, minorities, and minority women in state legislatures’, National Political Science Review, Vol. 10, pp. 71-84.
  • Dahlerup, D. (2005). The theory of a ‘critical mass’ revisited. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington DC, pp. 1-4.

Example ethnicity and race dissertation topic 2:

Human rights and the Traveller community: A right not to roam?

With a specific focus on the 1980s reforms relating to the need for councils to provide caravan sites for Travellers and the subsequent battles from the mid 1990s onwards, (most recently at sites such as Dale Farm, in Essex), this is a dissertation that addresses not only a contemporary, ‘live’, human rights issue but also issues of prejudice, racial stereotyping and the extent to which adherence to the law is a requirement of all, regardless of ethnic considerations. Whilst the Traveller community claims ‘minority rights’, this dissertation questions whether such a position is legitimate for those who choose to live in locations (regardless of planning constraints) that appear to demonstrate their rejection of ‘the right to roam’ in preference for a ‘settled’ permanent home .

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Home, R. (2012). ‘Forced eviction and planning enforcement: The Dale Farm Gypsies’, International Journal of Law in the Built Environment, Vol. 4(3), pp. 178-188.
  • Niner, P. (2003). Local authority Gypsy/Traveller sites in England. London: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
  • Niner, P. (2004). ‘Accommodating nomadism? An examination of accommodation options for Gypsies and Travellers in England’, Housing Studies, Vol. 19(2), pp. 141-159.


Religion has a huge influence on society, whether you identify with a religion or not. Choosing a topic in this area can be fascinating and if you are interested in human rights in relation to religion, this topic may be good for you!

Example religion dissertation topic 1:

Religious discrimination: An exploration of the requirement to sing the national anthem and pledge to God in optional social groups and organisations.

In 2012, the story of young George Pratt’s refusal to say the Boy Scouts’ pledge to God made national headlines on the pretext of the group’s expulsion of him as an infringement of his right to practice religion or not. This thesis examines whether groups such as the Boy Scouts, the membership of which is optional, must create alternative pledges, not merely for religions other than Christianity (as they already do for Islam and some other religions) but also for the absence of a belief in a Supreme Being. While many would say that under the recent Equality Act 2010 discrimination based on religious grounds is unacceptable it is arguable that Master Platt was not discriminated against on the basis that he did not believe in God, but on the basis that he would not say the oath. This is a dissertation that has potential at the level of undergraduate, Master’s, or even beyond, for the right candidate.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cragun, R. T., Kosmin, B., Keysar, A., Hammer, J. H. and Nielsen, M. (2012). ‘On the receiving end: Discrimination toward the non-religious in the United States’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 27(1), pp. 105-127.
  • Hammer, J.H., Cragun, R.T., Hwang, K. and Smith, J.M. (2012). ‘Forms, frequency, and correlates of perceived anti-atheist discrimination’, Secularism and Nonreligion, Vol. 1, pp. 43-67.
  • Reuveni, E. (2006). ‘On Boy Scouts and anti-discrimination law: The associational rights of quasi-religious organizations’, Boston University Law Review, Vol. 86(1), pp. 109-171.

Violence and Assault

Whilst this topic can be destressing, it is very important that it is researched and investigated. If you know you are interested in examining this topic but are not sure where to start, maybe these suggestions can help:

Example violence and assault dissertation topic 1:

Rape in Zimbabwe: The need for an international intervention on human rights grounds?

The use of rape as a form of ‘legitimised’ state torture as well as a weapon of repression under the Mugabe regime has been relatively well documented. This dissertation seeks to assess what the international community could or should do within Zimbabwe to counter-act such basic abuses of human rights. In so doing it questions whether there is now an accepted precedent of the defence of human rights, particularly given recent events in Libya, for UN-sponsored military action to reinstate the human rights of some of its most vulnerable citizens.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Blatt, D. (1991). ‘Recognizing rape as a method of torture’, NYU Review of Law and Social Change, Vol. 19, p. 821.
  • McGlynn, C. (2008). ‘Rape as ‘torture’? Catharine Mackinnon and questions of feminist strategy’, Feminist Legal Studies, Vol. 16(1), pp. 71-85.
  • Research and Advocacy Unit (2010). No hiding place: Politically motivated rape of women in Zimbabwe: Report. Harare: Research and Advocacy Unit and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights.

Justice System

Maybe you would be more interested in the way the justice system upholds societies human rights or how the prison system may take these away. This is a popular topic and would be a great way to go for your dissertation. Take a look at some options below:

Example justice system dissertation topic 1:

he right to withhold labour: The moral maze of prisoner’s rights.

Combining aspects of human rights, welfare reform and public policy, this dissertation reviews proposals put forward by Britain’s Coalition government to make prisoners work whilst they are in custody. Though the notion of making prisoners work for their food and shelter may be popular (especially amongst certain sectors of the British press) this dissertation questions whether it is morally acceptable to make prisoners work. This is a dissertation that would benefit from a range of interviews being undertaken with organisations such as the Howard League for Penal Reform as well as with probation officers, judges and convicts themselves.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Kang, S. (2009). ‘Forcing prison labor: International labor standards, human rights and the privatization of prison labor in the contemporary United States’, New Political Science, Vol. 31(2), pp. 137-161.
  • Quigley, W.P. (2003). ‘Prison work, wages, and Catholic social thought: Justice demands decent work for decent wages, even for prisoners’, Santa Clara Law Review, Vol. 44, p. 1159.
  • Robinson, A. (2011). Foundations for offender management: Theory, law and policy for contemporary practice. Bristol: The Policy Press.

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