Analysis Of Cultural Relativist And Critique Of International Human Rights

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This journal article, “Cultural Relativist and Feminist Critiques of International Human Rights - Friends or Foes?” by Oonagh Reitman seeks to rouse discussion about the similarities between two critiques of universal human rights: cultural relativists and feminists, despite the antagonistic position both groups tend to take against each other. In the beginning, he lays out the basis of critique of international human rights by each camp. Cultural relativists argue that the universal human rights which are earned simply ‘by virtue of being human’ (Donnelly in Reitman 1997, 100) are insensitive to the diversity of culture. Feminists, on the other hand, criticize that universal human rights guarantee only men’s rights and that ‘gender equality and freedom from discrimination for women is given a low priority in the international arena’ (Reitman 1997, 100).
Reitman then examines the combative relationship between the two groups. Cultural relativists believe feminists are ‘protecting a Western notion of equality’ (Reitman 1997, 107); that the universal rights they claim are based on the perspective of Western, white middle-class women without regards to women of other culture. In turn, feminists accuse cultural relativists of ‘protecting a male version of culture’ (Reitman 1997, 107) and that cultural relativism is hindering the realization and enforcement of women’s human rights.
The author then proceeds to draw parallels between the two critiques. Cultural relativists see

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