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Human rights with reference to women

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 5421 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The superior topics of up to designated day feminist political idea are anti-essentialism and anti-foundationalism. Anti-essentialism engages the deconstruction of assumptions and assertions that persona has some intrinsic essence and the comprehending that persona are habitually communally assembled, framework and inevitably constituted through exclusion. (Donnelly 77) ‘Its drafters were addressing a particular situation, which they had experienced and did not want to see repeated. (Second world war) p75.

Anti-foundationalism, as I am utilising the period here, engages reflexive concern of the supreme surrounds of reality assertions or lesson universals with а outlook to comprehending how they have been contingently established in specific texts or historic specific customs of thought. Such an comprehending is presumed to assist to the contestation of their unquestioned rank as bases and so to the democratization of considered (though not to the elimination of bases as such, which are vital to thought).

The idea of fundamental Human Rights

The idea of fundamental Human Rights is a concept that has gained increasing significance in modern society. The view that all people are born equal central to the theory of ‘human rights' and has particularly been advocated in western societies who have arguably been the self elected police of the development of global human rights. Human Rights have become a buzzword and trophy for western societies to exhibit civilisation and consequently supremacy. Human rights have been used to justify wars. For example in the ‘War on Terror' human rights have become a justification to correct the barbarism of mainly Muslim extremists' societies. Although it can be argued that human rights are primarily beneficial relatively to western cultures, upon closer examination it becomes apparent that human rights are essentially more beneficial to the cultures to which they originate from and can consequently be regarded as ethnocentric.

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Ethnocentrism is the concept of seeing the world from a particular cultural perspective.[1] "Ethnocentrism" is the tendency to believe that one's own race or ethnic group is the most important and that some or all aspects of its culture are superior to those of other groups. Since within this ideology, individuals will judge other groups in relation to their own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behaviour, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity.[2] In this essay I will explore human rights as an ethnocentric product of western society with a comparative look at women's human rights Asian human right theories and culture. I will present arguments for and against human rights as an ethnocentric product with specific reference to women's rights. I will than summarise my own opinion.

In Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states it states that ‘all human beings are born with equal rights'. Similarly The Vienna Declaration 1993 states that all humans' rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. Similarly, Globalization and Human Rights (G&HR), as a whole, is concerned about understanding the “phenomenon” of globalization and its impact on human rights—whether it establishes a threat to human rights or creates opportunities for the advancement of human rights.

Since globalization is treated as the key independent variable, Editor Alison Brysk reviews various definitions of globalization in her introductory essay, and chapter authors introduce their own understanding of the term. While some refer to globalization as a process that started with history, others, who are impressed by the rapid integration of markets and the revolutionary changes in communication technologies within the last two or three decades, tend to define it as a more recent phenomenon. They also differ in their treatment of the phenomenon in qualitative and quantitative terms. For example, Wesley T. Milner focuses on “economic globalization” and defines it as the integration of economies in institutional, commercial and financial terms. Milner emphasizes economic globalization's quantitative aspect (without denying the qualitative one) and characterizes globalization. (G&HR)

Human rights has come to mean to a basic standard in which we all should live by, a set of rules concluded by middle class men in high authorities in governments, it is outlined by a standard which is culturally specific to their societies and cultural norms and when their standard revolutionize it is then imposed globally.

This is particularly evident when one contrasts women's human rights from both western and Asian cultures. Women's human rights are clearly culturally specific and are questioned vastly. Ethnocentrism has allowed human rights to be seen as rational but only from a western concept.


Both antiessentialism and anti-foundationalism are considered to be particularly significant in а post-colonial context because they endow rethinking of the way in which the essential partiality of cause has been mapped on to the ethnocentric exclusion of ‘Others' as inferior. Feminists hardworking in the human privileges arena are worried with the way in which universal privileges omit women as women.

However, they are less involved in the critique of universal privileges in abstract periods and more in extending androcentric definitions of privileges to try to encompass women's anxieties inside the structure that they provide.

This is only in part because human privileges are, in standard at smallest, supported by the force of states, worldwide and supranational institutions. In detail, human privileges regulation and organisations are cumbersome an somewhat ineffective. Even where specific conferences have been ratified by states there often continues а parting between household and worldwide law.

States may signal conferences but go incorrect to overtake applicable legislation and rulings are made at the discretion of referees who may be ignorant of, or reluctant to enforce, regulations even where they have been passed. Nevertheless, the lawful standing of human privileges is sensed to assist to people's enthusiasm to take up privileges matters, while, symbolically, privileges discourse presents а mighty language for demanding wrongs. (Donnelly 123-56) The foreign minister of Singapore warned that "universal recognition of the ideal of human rights can be harmful if universalism is used to deny or mask the reality of diversity." (Amartya 1997)

Feminist activists thus support the elongation of human privileges, regardless of their restricted effectiveness, because of the way they assist to а heritage in which fairness is furthered as an perfect. It is accepted in the publications on human privileges to split up them into three ‘generations' as asserted by their chronicled development. This is in itself awkward for feminist understandings of human privileges development insofar as it proposes inescapable progress. It is helpful, although, insofar as the distinct generations were consolidated at distinct chronicled instants and through distinct ideological projects.


Human Rights on the face of it appear to be a universal ideal but it is not culturally impartial, the values it upholds which is necessary to the ideology of human rights only become accustomed to modern institutions, however culturally influenced. Other western cultures are not familiarised with these ideals and are excluded from the human rights institution.

It is suggested that westerners presume that other cultures are backwards and socially inferior and therefore need these ethnocentric human rights to be introduced. Human rights can be considered ethnocentric as it was developed because of Western cultural norms, which therefore make it relevant only to the western culture. Western ideals have become the yardstick for humanity, believing their beliefs are the paramount principles needed for this world, this form of ethnocentrism can be considered a form of social slavery as countries and cultures aspire to be comparable to these western societies and are socially forced to adapt these incompatible ethics to be accepted in the social global sphere.

In relation to women human rights are again deemed ethnocentric. Throughout history in western cultures women have been exclude from the human rights process and development. They fought for years to get rights, for instance the right to vote. Nevertheless today under the new outlook of human rights the idea that women couldn't vote or are treated differently would shock disgust and be a social outrage, in a Western country. This demonstrates that human rights are furthermore ethnocentric as it reflects the frame of mind of the culture that produces it. However it is still apparent that women are not enjoying the same rights as men illustrated in jobs and wages. It would be unrealistic to imagine that women endorse the notion of the ‘fair wage' free of the historical and cultural baggage that notion carries.[3]

Categorically human rights are gendered. Feminist have challenged dominant interpretations of human rights arguing that they are biased against women. 

Women in the human rights system are near enough invisible, they are systematically confined to the household sphere so they can not conflict with male patriarchy. All around the world women have been tortured systematically; women will never be scheduled to enlist in human rights. The mass unpaid work women do in their homes and if they work goes un-paid and unnoticed. It is not even considered work. If human rights are to apply universally, why has there been a persistent and continuing need to qualify them with respect to race, religion and gender.

Marx condemned the capitalist system for what many would now call gross violations of fundamental human rights, the miserable living conditions of the workers, their subjection to capitalist tyranny in the factory, and brutal state suppression of working class protests. [4] Contrary to what many would contend, I argue that it does not make sense from the Marxian perspective to try to construct an international standard of human rights, a standard that can be used to evaluate all societies, and thus societies of very different types.[5]

Cultures and human rights

The anti imperialist arguments against the universalism of human rights stand on two main arguments that everyone is equally entitled to respect and in order to respect a person includes their culture part of a person's identity.[6] However cultural relativist believe that it is inconsistent to support human rights and respect cultures that violate human rights [7] But by imposing an ethnocentric form of human rights can be considered as oppression. The ‘western concept of human rights alien to and incompatible with the core values embedded in Asian culture and tradition and that the west's attempt to impose it's own concept of human rights on Asia constitutes cultural imperialism. [8] Asian values debate implies that human rights are intrinsically Western as it does not apply to them or their culture. In addition historically in Asian customs duties are regarded as more important than rights; for examples in many Asian communities' people are connected to one another by different localities, plus younger people have a cultural obligation to obey to older people. From a western human rights standpoint old and young people should not be discriminated against and are treated differently on the account of age.

Similarities can be drawn in African cultures as well, where cultural customs are highly valued and the right for each nation and tribe to practice their beliefs and traditional customs are paramount. The unwritten system continues to exist without legislation due to cultural understandings and social discipline. This demonstrates that each culture has comprehensible differences and own beliefs of naturally subjective views of human rights. An illustration in African cultures where female circumcision holds prestige and cultural favour the western belief is that it is against the women's human rights, and therefore should be deemed unlawful. In the direction of western societies they are outraged, but in majority of women born in these societies it is what makes a woman a woman, ‘all the justifications (of circumcision) do not stand up to western rationality and sensibility which see these operations as maintaining the subordination of women to men in an appalling an damaging way.'[9] This portrays the human rights clash.

Many Africans cannot enjoy the rights and freedom guaranteed by the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights. Most African countries, which have signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified the main human rights instruments and incorporated their principles into their constitutions, have not fully implemented them in practice. It is quite clear that progress cannot be made until the cause of disunity is re-examined and the vision of an identity that embraces and encompasses all groups is renegotiated. The cause of conflicts is often attributed to "historical experience". The scramble and partition of African States are said not to bean outcome of free negotiation among nationalities and principalities at that time. However, the prolonged and varied nature of these conflicts goes to show that the problem stretches beyond colonialism, which may be a major factor in apartheid but not of ethnocentrism.

Non western cultures not just African and Asian but other small minorities have similar divergence within human rights. Traditions such as arranged marriages in western culture is depicted as oppressive, but on the other hand to these minorities groups worldwide it is seen as positive social liberty to get married and has a high success rate. Conversely, historically arranged marriages had a part to play in both eastern and western cultures. But today more prominent in eastern cultures and particularly Asian however western human rights arranged marriage would contradict human rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) under Article 16 states that;

1. Men and Women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

This idea is ethnocentric because the west changed their view on arranged marriages and requests and imagines that the rest of the world should implement these views also, this is ethnocentric, although the western world previously participated in arranged marriages. In every context this demand for freedom will mean something different, and it will not necessarily mean what is meant in the West. The legitimacy of human rights is not so much its authoritative universalism, so much as its capacity to become a moral vernacular for the demand for freedom within local cultures.[10]

In 1945, women, blacks and homosexuals in Western societies were denied many of the basic protections of the United Declaration. [11] which contravenes modern human rights conventions but because that was the western social stance it was regarded as unacceptable approach to human rights in those days. Controversially ethnocentric western cultures are able to opt out of the rights as it suits them this illustrates the ethnocentric western superiority, the fact that western cultures are exempt from some of the most imperative human rights today shows it is shaped ethnocentrically seeing that they can contravene as they desire. The paradigm of capital punishment in the United States of America clearly supports this notion as capital punishment was condemned as unlawful through the legislations of human rights, but is still in much effect in major states in America.

Human rights are not culturally neutral; there is great diversity within cultures which portrays this. The rationale for why western ideas of human rights have dominated and prevailed because of globalisation (quote article globalisation and human rights) because the west has been the front runner in commerce and export of culture 

It can be argued that they are not ethnocentric but universal which is why so many countries have subscribed to the popular views of human rights.


The first set is the most privileged and the most classically liberal: the municipal and political privileges codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Feminists have contended that this set of privileges is androcentric in its building of the opponents between the public sphere of privileges and the personal sphere of family, familiarity and house relatives out-of-doors the scope of privileges discourse. (Donnelly 119) For demonstration, the UDHR defines the family as deserving to ‘protection from humanity and the state'.

This means that aggression against women in the personal sphere is not glimpsed in human privileges periods as а contravention of municipal rights: ‘Everyone . . . deserving to all the privileges and freedoms set ahead in this Declaration' is а man. The feminist crusade for the definition of rape, enforced prostitution and indecent assault to be treated gravely as conflict misdeeds has undoubtedly conveyed public vigilance to the topic and has furthermore produced in thriving prosecutions at the Hague Tribunal. (The universal declaration of human rights states in art1 all ‘human beings are born with equal rights' (Human rights p101) Feminists are furthermore contemplating how the mighty worldwide prohibition on torture, now defined as activity by or at the instigation of а public authorized, might be expanded to encompass torture by persons in the personal sphere. (Fester 172)

The use of human privileges to dispute organisations and incidences of aggression against women over the world has been the most thriving way of expanding human privileges to women, doubtless because of the prestige municipal privileges currently relish and because it has verified somewhat unproblematic to re-describe taken-for-granted aggression against women as illegitimate. The concept of ‘deconstructive equality' is well showed by difficulties of the submission of human privileges for women. (Gilroy 11)

If my contention is correct, the poststructuralist form of gender equality is nearly associated to the scheme of ‘degendering' implicit in human privileges as they are actually being developed. However, the difficulty of androcentrism in the submission of human privileges remains. (Dunne, T. and Wheeler 35-43) The adversity is that verifying discrimination in court has usually been taken to need а male standard of equality. ‘[W]omen are compelled to contend either that they are the identical as men and should be treated the identical, or that they are distinct but should be treated as if they were the identical, or that they are distinct and should be accorded exceptional treatment'. The couple of situations that have been conveyed to court under CEDAW have effectively utilized the ‘male comparator' check against discrimination, but it is restricted in its potential. (Ackerly 24)

The ‘male comparator' benchmark of equality disregards the biological and functional dissimilarities between the sexes and makes methodical inequality invisible. To deal with this adversity, feminists suggest а distinct check, actually being utilised in Canada: that of disadvantage. This check needs that а individual display that as the constituent of а assembly they bear handicap where some distinction is made that places that assembly at а proceeded or worsening handicap in relative to others. (Okin 29-37)

If they can do so, as they have effectively finished in the Canadian enclosures, there is а case of discrimination to answer. This check is preferable because it needs that judgement be made in relative to women as they are actually positioned, possibly endowing far-reaching trials to sexy hierarchy. The most conspicuous objection to this formulation of human privileges as founded on one-by-one autonomy is that it is ethnocentric and, really, this is an significant theme in composing on human rights. (Benhabib 96-101)

Although there have been endeavours to ground human privileges in cross-cultural universals, it is broadly acquiesced that the content of human privileges charters as they stand has been evolved out of, and is very powerfully reliant on, liberal individualism drawn from the natural regulation custom of Europe. With consider to up to designated day feminist idea, ethnocentrism in relative to human privileges has three major aspects. (Fester 2000) First, there is the assumption that women are all basically the identical, pain from the identical oppressions at the hands of men over the world such that investigates and programmes evolved in one context can be validly directed to another. This place is affiliated with the foundationalist idea of ‘sisterhood' on which fundamental feminism in specific was premised. It is ethnocentric insofar as investigates, lesson judgements and political recommendations are made on the cornerstone of the specific context in which Western feminism was evolved without consider to the distinct positions in which women find themselves and through which their concepts and convictions are formed. (Lind 187-89) “It is inconsistent to support human rights and respect cultures that violate human rights”. (Human rights freeman 109)

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Second, а associated contention is that which sees the human privileges discourse as individualistic and thus incapable to address functional matters, like the worldwide partition of work, that are of more anxiety to women in evolving nations than Western feminists accept, realise or apprehend. (Gilroy 121-45) Finally, the accusation of ethnocentrism is connected to the way in which white Anglo feminists have despised other heritage as creative of specific characteristics of women's oppression or need of opposition to oppression in а way that replicates colonialist representations of ‘backwardness' and advancement. In specific, there has been а malfunction to realise distinct kinds of opposition, not directly recognizable as such from inside Western norms. For poststructuralist feminists the topic of ethnocentrism raises tough inquiries in relative to human rights. (Keck and Sikkink 31-34)

Women and cultural diversity

The very concept of ‘women' as an currently living constituency to be comprised is problematic. The deconstruction of essences and bases to which poststructuralist feminists have directed themselves is in part an try to bypass the ethnocentrism inferred in making general investigates or universal normative assertions from specific, privileged places as white, middle-class women. (Gilroy 22) Poststructuralist feminists have supported а comprehensive approach to investigates of gender as it is assembled in specific racialized and sexualized contexts that are not inevitably generalizable. In this way it is wanted that dissimilarities can be highly regarded and the imposition of periods and classes that are unsuitable to specific positions can be bypassed . Furthermore, normative judgements are furthermore bypassed for this cause, except insofar as boosting subversion and disturbance to foundational classes and fixed persona may be considered to convey а normative charge. (Fester 45-67)

Judith Butler contends that we will not do away with the class of universality, but that ‘Within the political context of up to designated day post-coloniality usually, it is possibly particularly pressing to highlight the very class of the “universal” as а location of insistent challenge and re-signification'. The normative timidity of such а place, the reluctance to give any content to the (contestable) universal is, although, tough to blend with а robust firm promise to sexy equality. Poststructuralist feminists are correctly perceptive to the adversities of ethnocentrism because it might be presumed that ethnocentrism is really а direct outcome of а firm promise to anti-foundationalism. Richard Rorty has put this outlook most forcefully.

He contends that worth judgements and norms are inevitably ethnocentric because they are ‘grounded' only in the ‘beliefs and yearns and emotions' with which the lesson self identifies; there is no reasonable, extra-community issue from which judgement can be workout. Under this recount, ethnocentrism is inescapable for postmodernists since judgements will habitually be made on the cornerstone of heritage convictions that disagree between communities. Furthermore, Rorty furthermore contends that ‘we' in the West should not be embarrassed of our ethnocentrism. Specifically in relative to human privileges, he contends that ‘we' relish а ‘human privileges culture' into which we have been taught through ‘sentimental education'. Although human privileges have been restricted in that historic those out-of-doors our community have not habitually been considered as human, as long as they are expanded to every individual on the planet, encompassing all women, ethnocentrism is somewhat harmless. (Donnelly 19)

It is absolutely, he contends, а good deal less hurtful than giving up judgements on the cornerstone of human privileges for worry of conceiving our heritage ethically better to other ones. It is with esteem to sentiments about the ‘moral superiority' of the West and the ‘condescension' with which he admits other heritage should then be treated that Rorty's ethnocentrism appears to be nearly joined to the colonialist stance to which poststructuralist and other up to designated day feminists are so opposed. While poststructuralist feminists would acquiesce with Rorty's assertion that it is not likely to get away а historic assembled subject place, his concept of heritage is peculiarly un-postmodern. (Fester 121)

As Uma Narayan has contended, an comprehending of heritage as monolithic and unified duplicates the comprehending of ‘Western culture' and ‘indigenous culture' as idealized totalities made in the ‘colonial encounter'. Rorty's type of benevolent ethnocentrism should then be glimpsed as duplicating the colonial representation of the West as the location of advancement and the Other as the location of unchanging made-to-order and custom that supplied justification for the colonial task and extends to supply it for financial and infantry intervention today. Feminist have challenged dominant interpretations of human rights arguing that they are biased against women”. (Human rights freeman 128) Narayan contends that an comprehending of heritage as а unified totality is especially awkward in relative to insubordinate assemblies ‘within а culture'. (Robertson 128) The demonstration with which she is specifically worried in her publication Dislocating Cultures is Indian women, who are suspect of ‘cultural inauthenticity' and ‘being Westernized' when they oppose practices that are coded as ‘traditional', especially under the growing influence of Hindu nationalism. ‘Culture' is to be appreciated in Narayan's periods as а mighty signifier of the Indian contestation of colonial direct that is now being utilised to quiet and override Indian feminists. (Bhatt, C. and Mukta 12-15)


There are abstract rights that all humans have; rights based on universal human needs, the notion of human rights have been debated immeasurably but generally is seen as ethnocentric and biased to non- Westerners countries, also to minorities, and to the feeble, such as women. Human rights policies can not adapt to all peoples in the world as difference is apparent and always will be.

In fighting ethnocentrism, it is important to build on solidarity; a value firmly rooted in African philosophy, and should be instilled in every individual. Pope John Paul II has stated that we lead to the recognition of diversity and open the mind to mutual acceptance and genuine collaboration demanded by individuals. As such, dialogue is a privileged means for building the civilization of love and peace.According to this comprehending, then, Rorty's idea of human privileges heritage as Western is far from benevolent: ethnocentrism assists to the hardening of authoritarian colonialist logics on both edges of the ‘West vs. the Rest' split up, consolidating persona that are resistant to contestation from below.

However, whereas Rorty's protection of poststructuralist human privileges heritage as ethnocentric is improper, not smallest to feminists worried not to neglect dissimilarities and conflicts inside the persona assembly ‘women', it is regardless worth consideration. Despite its limitations and hazards it does start with an insight that is significant to an comprehending of poststructuralist feminist firm promises to human rights: that there is no likely reasonable viewpoint from which the ‘rightness' of human privileges can be judged.

Thus those of us for who universal human privileges are actually convincing can only find the contentions, positions and political past notes through which we have arrive to this position; we will be adept to find no supreme justification for our convictions and feelings. In this esteem Rorty and poststructuralist feminists are in agreement: any judgement is inevitably located and perspectival. Moreover, Rorty is right, I believe, to assert that this should not signify that we stop on making normative judgements. Feminists should be, as I have contended, pledged to the equality of women and this needs making painful judgements which, although perceptive we are to their partiality and to the adversities of contending for their universal applicability, will not count on universal agreement.( Cornell 16-27)

Works Cited

Ackerly, B. (2000) Political Theory and Feminist Criticism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Benhabib, S. (1996) ‘The democratic moment and the problem of difference' in

S. Benhabib (ed.) Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the

Political, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bhatt, C. and Mukta, P. (2000) ‘Hindutva in the West: mapping the antimonies of diaspora nationalism', Ethnic and Racial Studies 23(3): 407-41.

Gilroy, P. (2000) Between Camps: Natures, Cultures and the Allure of Race, Harmondsworth: Allen Lane.

Cornell, D. (1998) At the Heart of Freedom: Feminism, Sex, and Equality,

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Donnelly, J. (1999) ‘The social construction of international human rights', in T. Dunne and N. Wheeler (eds) Human Rights in Global Politics,

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dunne, T. and Wheeler, N. (eds) (1999) Human Rights in Global Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fester, G. (2000) ‘Despite diversity: women's unity in Western Cape, South Africa (1980-94)', in S. Ali, K. Coate and W. wa Goro (eds) Global Feminist Politics, London: Routledge.

Keck,M. and Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists beyond Borders: Transnational Advocacy Networks in International Politics, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Okin, S. (1999) ‘Is multiculturalism bad for women?', in J. Cohen, M. Howard and M. Nussbaum (eds) Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lind, A. (2000) ‘Negotiating boundaries: women's organizations and the politics of restructuring in Ecuador', in M. Marchand and A. Runyan (eds) Gender and Global Restructuring: Sightings, Sites and Resistances, London: Routledge.

Robertson, G. (2000) Crimes against Humanity: The Str


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