Thesis On Cultural Relativism

1594 Words7 Pages
Cultural relativism, in its most absolute form, is defined as culture being the “sole source of validity of a moral right or rule” (Donnelly, 1984). Such an extreme notion of cultural relativity may sometimes result in the infringement of individual human rights and fundamental freedoms. On the other hand, absolute universalism holds that culture is irrelevant to the validity of moral rights and rules. According to Article 4 of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, cultural diversity presupposes the respect for human rights. “The defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity. It implies a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of persons belonging to minorities and those of indigenous peoples. No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope". In other words, UNESCO believes that the guarantee of human rights should be a pre-condition in any cultural practice. In the scenario where a cultural practice infringes upon human rights, that practice is invalid and should not be respected.

In this essay, I depart from the UNESCO Declaration by arguing that the safeguarding of human rights cannot always be a pre-condition in every form of cultural practice
…show more content…
Cultural relativism as a justification for harmful practices is no longer valid when individuals unwillingly and involuntarily suffer loss of “life, liberty and security” (Article 3, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights) as a result of conforming to harmful traditions. Furthermore, cultural relativism is often used as justification for crimes against humanity by the modern state. The universality of individual human rights thus serves as a check on the potential excesses and abuse of cultural relativism (Donnelly, 1984, p.
Open Document