Relativism View On Human Rights

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Views on Human Rights Human rights are an important topic to many, if not everyone, in the world today. They have evolved substantially throughout history. It is a common theme in current discussion as to whether human rights are a moral and internationally legal obligation. Since there is no single view on human rights, there are several opinions on how to address the issue. Human rights for humanity as a whole can be divided between the universalists and relativists. Universalism and relativism views are hotly debated in international society today. Universalism in terms of human rights is adopted by many around the world. Essentially, universalism is the belief that “all humans possess the same rights and that they are immutable” (Rourke …show more content…
While universalists claim that rights belong to all of humanity, relativists believe that rights are dependent on each individual culture. They believe that “rights are the product of a society’s contemporary values” (Rourke p. 455). No culture in the world is the same, so they would each have their own system of human rights as a result. To relativists, cultures determine their human rights themselves. Most of them “characterize culture as an essential attribute of self-determination and of a people 's sovereignty” (Musalo, n.d). To impose another society’s view of human rights onto one society would be a violation of that society’s sovereignty. This is known as “cultural imperialism” (Rourke p. 456). International child abductions are a prime example of the clash between universalist and relativist theories. The Hague Convention of 1980 is an international treaty that provides for the legal return of internationally abducted children among party countries. However, there are many countries that “are not parties to the Convention, and even some that are parties enforce the laws only sporadically or in accordance with their own societal customs” (Morely 2005). Universalists would believe that the child should be returned, because human rights extend to all including children. However, many eastern societies have differing culture …show more content…
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (United Nations 1948). This is a universalist idea, and it shows that the United Nations takes a universalist approach to human rights. Two treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have been “ratified by more than 80% of all countries” (Rourke p. 461). A majority of the world’s countries support the universalist ideas of the UN. However, while countries may ratify treaties that support human rights, not all of them practice perfect protection of human rights. Iraq under Saddam Hussein, which had ratified the aforementioned treaties, “egregiously abused many, even most, of the rights set forth in both covenants”. While the international treaties have goodwill intentions, the world has a long way to go in order to solve its human rights

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