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All matters relating to assessment should be directed to the Melbourne Law School student Centre at: Tell: +61 3 8344 4475 Fax: +61 3 8344 0106 Email: law-studentcentre@unimelb. Deed. AU Imagine that the only international human rights institutions and instruments that exist are the United Nations and the universal Declaration of Human Rights. How would you build on those to create an effective system for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world?
There is no doubt that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has protected the rights of people by freeing many people from cruel and unjustified harm while setting a standard for each government in which they can make comparisons to and live by. Although since each culture has its own history and perspectives about what humans beings have the right to during their life, it is arguable that a universal doctrine for all human beings should be abolished and replaced with doctrines that draw rights for every separate culture and society.
One limitation of the current Universal Declaration of Human Rights is brought up by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) claiming the declaration is too ethnocentric, meaning that this declaration was accused of holding the values of one’s own cultures superior to other cultures (Morning, 1999). The AAA was worried that there would be o fair solution to making the human rights declaration applicable to all societies not just America and Western Europe. Others argue that for individuals who choose to exercise their individual rights have to do so in expense of abandoning their social group.
The history of how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created also needs to be scrutinized as the doctrine itself was formed in response to atrocities that occurred across Europe and not in response to human rights violations that were occurring in other parts of the world. Each culture has its own distinctive way of thinking founded by a collective group of individuals. Mutual (2002) believes that by attempting to group all the collective doctrines of all human societies into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be leading to the destruction Of valued customs and traditions.
Each individual grows up to the values of their own society and unconsciously makes biased decisions not being aware that other societies also have their own customs. Mutual claims that this resulted in the denomination and discrimination against practices that are non- European in the goal of universalism European norms to the rest of the world. This is against the standard for human rights as anthropologists state hat each individual should respect individual differences which should lead to respect for other cultures and that unless proven otherwise by scientific evidence each culture is equal no matter the seemingly obvious differences.
Many communities and nations outside fosterer societies argue that the universal Declaration of Human Rights exclude these differences in cultural practices. Not surprisingly Islamic nations across East Asia do not approve that the United Nations have only considered only the standards set by western based societies and ignored their ancient customs in regards to issues such as marriage.
This has led to the view that their actions are a restraint against their own free will and many in the Islamic community have revolted against their superiors as compromises to incorporate both western and Islamic traditions have failed. Unlike Western societies Islamic traditions do not view marriage as a free will or choice so can be interpreted as being polar opposites leading to there being no way to compromise for a clear resolution with no uproars from either side. Thus the Universal Declaration of Human Rights cannot be universalism in many cases without removing the sews of opinions from one side.
This in no doubt would lead to much disrepute that has already occurred in Afghanistan and Iran involving the formation of the Taliban who are a group of Islamic extremists who due to the repression of their customs have instigated terrorist attacks around sectors of other Islamic based countries such as Pakistan and also against the United States in the 2001 September 11 attacks (Gigantic, 2001). Considering that the majority of the constraints have been focused onto Nan-Western based societies many argue that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not universal.
Critics of the declaration argue that due to the cultural differences between societies across the world, human rights in some views cannot be universalism (Throat, 2000). For example many third world countries would argue that rights to vacation and fair wages are simply not relevant to their society. Over the last 60 years Western societies themselves have drifted apart in terms of how they interpret human rights on issues such as abortion and capital punishment. Thus by making human rights universal this has led to only universal discord and arguments based on what morals have precedence over others.
Since 1945 it was common to believe that Western societies were superior to other societies. Recently however this is not the case and thus human rights should not revolve our moral rights and freedoms around Western societies or on any one particular society. Once this was realized and European views Were not set as a common standard there has been nothing but discord and disrepute from the United Nations on what is morally right or wrong and for what values from each society should be set as the standard. Philosophically it can be argued that nothing including human rights can be universal.
This is the idea that due to rights and values each being interpreted by people from different backgrounds and races that each of these rules are limited by cultural perception. Thus Throat (2000) states that without a universal culture is not possible for there to be universal human rights. This cultural perception that determines what moral rights should be enforced are also subject to change as the society which formulate these ideals evolve and are constantly changing thus would require this universal doctrine to also change and should accommodate for those in societies who follow this doctrine.
However with so many developing countries it seems unrealistic for a single doctrine to adapt itself for the changes in cultural practices and perceptions that each society undertakes in often short periods of time. If however the single doctrine does not change in repose to the change in moral policies a society will not be able to develop improvements on their cultural practices that is necessary for providing justice and equality for its people (Perry, 1997). Constraints must be applied when non-Western traditions make life unbearable to certain members in their society.
Women in Afghanistan need to be protected from strict anomalies enforced by their husbands and family when they go against their tradition. Although (Gigantic, 2001 ) argues that exercising these rights can lead to social ostracism and United Nations can only make them aware of the consequences Of such actions and are otherwise powerless to help them. Harmful practices that entail many communities’ rituals and traditions can only be abandoned once the group as a whole decides to abandon the practice and without group consensus the practice will continue.
Human rights advocates need to understand that when telling women that they have free choice to refusing to such practices that they also pay the price in being castrated from the group and forced out of there social livelihoods. In a more positive light young Islamic Muslim women in rural areas of Pakistan have spoken out against honor killings that involve death by burning as punishment for disobeying their spouse. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a clear resolution to such actions as removing these cultural practices would contradict the view that the human rights should not delimiting culture in any way.
Mutual (2002) claims that the Universal Declaration itself as based on the human rights movement that was in response to the Nazi regime in Germany leading to the mass genocide and maltreatment of innocent Jewish people. He argues that because this movement did not occur due to either the mass slavery across the whole continent of Africa or the colonization of in areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America that resulted in many more atrocities the initial human rights movement was based on the interest Of preserving the lives of European based countries instead of Other societies.
As Kennedy (2002) states human rights should not be used for political agendas or objectives for power. If this behavior is not controlled than a human rights movement can easily form into a regime based on power much like the Nazi regime. Kennedy believes that human rights must be based on humanism over power as a collective force and for there to be more reversible governments rather than the poor records of recent governments that have been part of the United Nations Committee who have acted out of self interest.
The Declaration of Human Rights states what rights we as people are already born with and can hope to achieve if not being repressed although these rights cannot achieved in all societies due to lack of group nonsense and being biased specifically to western based cultures. By universalism human rights and ignoring the majority of societies outside Western societies may have protected some but aggravated and caused dispute in others. It can also be argued that for individuals to also claim these western based rights they go against their own society and personal groups that they rely on for belonging.
These rights themselves may also not be considered universal as each individual have their own values and ideals regarding to moral rights from their own cultural heritage. The Declaration of Human Rights being also based on personal agendas in Western Europe involving the Nazi Regime and not as a reaction to major issues facing the rest of the world this doctrine although has been provided useful in protecting many and morally supporting the rights of individuals it has failed to appreciate and represent the rest of the worlds agendas as a whole.