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  • May 31, 2019
    IntroductionWhen it comes to human rights, the issue of cultural relativism is widely discussed. Majority of the human rights literature encompasses the western and non-western argument on what best illustrates what human rights should be. As a result of these debates, comes the discussion of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism, at first glance, seems like quite a reasonable argument towards safeguarding different cultural groups. However when we begin to analyse the cultural relativism theory, we come to know that it is not quite as reasonable or even as practical as it seems to be.  Cultural relativism seems to not only ignore human rights violations, but actually seems to approve them. Furthermore, it hardly disapproves any cultural or religious practices. Cultural relativism ignores the necessity to oppose violations and other human rights, and also ignores the freedom of choice to do so.[1]   AnalysisCultural relativism is the principle by which a human being’s beliefs should be perceived in accordance with his or her own culture. This concept of cultural relativism came about during discussions about the origin of human rights. There are quite a few ideas and claims that have led to the concept of cultural relativism, one of them being Kant’s argument that human beings are incapable of gaining unmediated knowledge of the world, and that the human mind interferes with all our experiences of the world, thus structuring our perceptions universally. However Herder disagreed with Kant’s argument saying that human experiences were mediated by cultural structures as well. As a result of this debate between Kant and Herder, came the belief of ethnocentrism.[2] Contemporary society is often referred to as a multicultural world, with people from various cultures increasingly becoming accustomed to interacting with people from other cultures. As a result of this, the ability to learn to respect and tolerate different cultural practices and beliefs has developed. In today’s society, people have shown an increased reluctance to criticise other cultures for various reasons. One of these reasons could be the fear of history repeating itself. An example of this is the European invasion of different parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and America, in the name of spreading Christianity and education. The aftermath of this resulted in slavery, apartheid and many other violations. The reluctance to criticise other cultures in this case arises from the fear of making the same violations as in the past. Another reason why there is the reluctance to criticise other cultures is that people feel the need to be tolerant of other cultures. Truth be told, tolerance is indeed essential for the sake of living in this multicultural world of ours peacefully. However, one should not feel obligated to tolerate particular cultural beliefs, especially if it involves some form of human rights violation.   It is true that people from different cultures have different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. Warburton describes moral relativism as “values held by a particular society at a particular time. However, moral relativism, just like cultural relativism can also be perceived in different ways by different cultures. In other words, relativists see that moral values are valid only within some cultural boundaries. Some examples illustrated by anthropologists as morally acceptable in some cultures and condemned by others are polygamy, genocide and sexism. Consequently, the moral difference in these cultures brings about the issue of ethics. Ethical relativism also promotes the belief that morality is, and cannot be universal. Moral relativism is therefore justified by relativist through various examples. For instance, practices regarding clothing and decency. This can be justified by one culture in that it is their moral obligation and duty to have women dress in a decent manner so as not to compromise their ethics. Some cultures would therefore agree with these practises under the moral principle that it is the duty of society to protect the women of their society.   Theories of different scholarsWe live in a world where cultural relativism is constantly questioned and debated. As earlier stated, relativism came about as a result of arguments on ethical issues. In support of cultural relativism, Benedict explains that “cultures are coexisting and equally valid patterns of life, which mankind has created for itself from the raw materials of existence. “According to Benedict, all cultures are equally valid as they embrace different views on morality and ethics.[3]However, Kluckhohn disagreed with Benedict’s doctrine on cultural relativism saying that this excluded any kind of moral criticism, his argument being that if one accepted Benedict’s theory, then they could not, complain about any kind of evil against humanity including slavery, communism, terrorism and many other forms of evil. The perception of cultural relativism is that people’s rights depend on their nationality, culture, and religion. Therefore, according to relativist, the rights of people in Nigeria are different from those in China or anywhere in the world.   Further AnalysisCultural relativism also promotes minoritism, as different cultures embrace the classification of people in their societies. For example, the caste system of Hinduism which rejects equal treatment of different caste members in Hindu society. As stated earlier, these individuals are denied various rights such as education, healthcare and jobs. Cultural relativism, in turn, denies the victims of these situations any access to universal standards. Furthermore, since cultural relativism supports groups of cultures, it is logical to say that individual rights in these cultures are disregarded. This means that individuals have no say in anything as society speaks for them and decides what is right or wrong for the individual. Moreover, Universalists believe that cultural relativism has caused more harm than good towards cultures. An example of this is the war in between Israel and Palestine. The Israeli culture claims that they are fighting to get their holy land, Jerusalem, back. However, this war has killed thousands of Muslims in the name of doing what is culturally “right” in accordance with the relativist theory. In the past, anthropologists were not afraid to show their discontentment about various unjust practises such as Apartheid against South Africans and the acts of genocide performed by the Nazi. Today, however, they have not spoken against similar practises that endanger human life such as female circumcision and even genocide in Rwanda and Sudan. How, then is it possible for one to rely on a theory that contradicts itself in this manner? If we therefore reflect on these relativist theories, cultural relativism just seems very unrealistic and impractical. ConclusionAll in all, although we learn about the virtue of tolerance from the cultural relativism theory, it is safe to say that the reason why we believe it is so important to be tolerant of other cultures is because we are also want to experience our own freedom, thus we do not want other cultures to criticize our own. Nobody wants to have their freedom restricted, and therefore if we want to enjoy the freedom to enjoy our beliefs we would not dare to limit the freedom of the beliefs of cultures we do not agree with.   [1]Jack Donelly; Defining “Cultural Relativism” [2]Cultural Relativism and Universal Human Rights by Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban https://anthropology.si.edu/outreach/anthnote/Winter98/anthnote.html [3]The John Hopkins University Press; Cultural Relativism and Universal Human Rightshttp://fs2.american.edu/dfagel/www/class%20readings/donnelly/cultual%20relativism.pdf  
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  • May 30, 2019
    Introduction Since a very long time, the LGBTQ community has been facing injustice, torture, inequality, taunts, physical and sexual abuse. Being homosexual is not a disease but is natural. There have been a lot of legal development in protecting the rights of LGBTQ and in terms of a legal standpoint, India is now doing very well in maintaining the rights of the LGBTQ community. However, when it comes to societal development, there is a still a lot of work that has to be done. Though the trans-genders are given the legal status of third gender and have same fundamental rights as other citizens, they still face a lot of discrimination and criticism by the society. They are still seen as a social outcast. However, a lot of communities see hijras as spiritual and consider their blessings as an important part of marriages and when children are born in the family. Homosexual teenagers still are victims of bullying and teasing in schools. The are not only taunted by friends but even by their own family. They are also considered as mentally ill people. LGBTQ community are not given jobs or housing facilities because of which they cannot maintain a basic livelihood. Moreover, they are sexually abused by friends, relatives and sometimes even law enforcement authorities. They are also discriminated against in multiple occasions which is against their right to equality which Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees.  A lot of members of the LGBTQ community are made to undergo shock therapy for forceful sexuality conversion which is a grave violation of their basic human rights. Just like anybody else, the LGBTQ community has the right to decide what should be and should not be done to their bodies and nobody can force that upon them.   Judicial Approach As per Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, “Unnatural Sexual Offences” is a crime. But, it does not define what “unnatural” actually is in the penal code because of which, a lot of members of the LGBTQ community have faced humiliation, violence including violence from police, blackmailing, sexual abuse, etc.  Section 377 of IPC was a major obstacle between LGBTQ community and their human rights.   National Legal Services Authority v Union of India (2014) is a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of India. It declared “trans-genders” as third gender and affirmed that fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to transgender people, and gave them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third-gender. This judgement is a major step towards gender equality in India. Moreover, the court also held that because transgender people were treated as socially and economically backward classes, they will be granted reservations in admissions to educational institutions and jobs.  In 2009, Delhi High Court decriminalized section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 in the famous Naz Foundation v Govt. of NCT of Delhi case. However, this judgement was later waived off by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court considered the LGBTQ community as a minuscule minority which does not need any protection of rights.  In 2018 September, the Supreme Court of India pronounced Section 377 as unconstitutional and decriminalized homosexuality. The five-judge bench- comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices R.F Nariman, A.M Khanwilkar, D.Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra were unanimous in its decision. They said that section 377 is irrational arbitrary and incomprehensible as it fetters the right to equality for LGBT community. LGBT possess same rights as other citizens. What society thinks has no say to when it comes to people’s freedoms. They further said that social morality cannot violate the rights of even one single individual and society owes an apology to the LGBTQ community. “Members of LGBT community and their family members are owed an apology from society for being denied equal rights over the years,” said Justice Malhotra.   Conclusion In conclusion, though the law has accepted the LGBTQ community as one among us, the society has not and still considers them as an outcast. Though they are equal in law, they are unequal in eyes of society. I propose the following suggestions: Creation of more NGOs that will work towards the rights of LGBTQ community. Promoting and Spreading awareness about homosexuality and how it is not a disease but is natural. Creation of adequate and proper housing and healthcare facilities for trans-genders. Unemployment needs to be minimized in the LGBTQ community so that they can promote and support a proper livelihood. Hijras should not have to be forced to become sex workers.  Physical, mental and sexual abuse against the LGBTQ should not be made fun of but should be taken seriously. Police should not abuse, but protect the LGBTQ just like how they would for other citizens. More and more people should be encouraged to accept the LGBTQ as a part of our society and not as an outcast. LGBTQ community should be taken care of through love, understanding and support. Just because their sexuality is different, we do not have the right to be unfair to them and ill-treat them. It is important to promote the idea that the homosexuals are also as normal as heterosexuals.
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