Natural person

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a “natural person” is a perceptible human being that is subject to physical laws, as opposed to an “artificial,” “legal” or “juristic” person. Those latter categories of legal subjects (“legal persons”) could be something other than a human person. Such a “legal person” could be an organization that the law treats for some purposes as if it were a “person” (entity) apart from its members or owners.

Certain rights apply to “natural persons” only.[1] Natural persons inherently possess fundamental human rights, like the right to life. For example, a corporation, although a “legal person,” cannot vote or hold public office as a “natural person” has the right to do. However, a corporation or formal organization, as a “legal person,” can file a lawsuit and seek remedy/reparation.

As distinct from a natural person, normally, every natural person is also a legal person in the sense that a natural person holds at least as many rights as a legal person. For our purposes, a natural person is the principal rights holder in human rights law and international humanitarian law, and a legal person, such as a corporation, may also be a duty holder and subject to regulation through the state’s extraterrritorial obligations.

Certain basic rights, like freedom of expression, adequate housing, food security and due process of law, do not necessarily follow from legal personhood, but instead from natural personhood.

A legal person is sometimes called an “artificial person” or “legal entity,” although the latter is sometimes understood also to include natural persons as well.


[1] For example, such legal provisions as Amendment XIX to the United States Constitution, which guarantees a woman’s right to vote, or Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equality rights, apply to natural persons only.