The application of common standards or same treatment does not necessarily mean respect for a person’s personality or individualism. Individuals cannot create their own opportunities as they are state provided. People should be free to choose which job they want to do. Many people refuse that equality of opportunity exists in democratic societies. There are some arguments that equality is of no importance to most people due to the fact that they do not have an equal economic or social status. It can be also argued, that rich people have greater opportunities in education and employment as they are in an beneficial situation because of their wealth. likewise, another thing to mention is that there is a prejudice from the past years until today against some racial groups and women, which situates them in a disadvantageous position as they have no right to equal opportunities.
“Opportunities in any social system are determined not only by ability, commitment, interest, corruption and luck but also by the unpredictable physical and human environment. Opportunities can be completely equalized only by controlling the physical environment and human behavior into predictable patterns. During the years the realization dawned that it was impossible not only to place everyone on the same starting line but to expect them to finish together”.
For a democratic society to exist there must be political opportunities, economic opportunities as to have wealth and prosperity. All discriminatory laws should be removed. Official discriminatory practices should be terminated and assistance should be extended to the less advantaged without penalizing others .
Despite the colour of our skin, the place where we were born, our religion we all have the right to be treated fairly. But what does ‘fairly’ mean? Does it mean equality, common standards, that we are all the same or that we have to be treated according our differences?
The term social inequality is a wide term which represents all the societies in our days. Facing the problem of social inequality we can recognize two different aspects. The first is the distributive one which is related on how the variety of factors, such as education, wealth, occupation and so on, are distributed in the society. The second one is based on how the individuals are related to each other in a system of groups. When talking about equality we are basically mean the equal opportunities, it also protects people from being discriminated on the grounds of religion, disability, age, belief or sexual orientation.
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Aristotle stated that ‘â€¦ Justice is thought to be equality; and so it is, but for equals, not for everybody. Inequality is also thought to be just; and so it is, but for unequals, not for everybody’. Also, in his paper ‘Justice as Fairness’, John Rawls set out two principles. Firstly, that ‘each person participating in a practice, or affected by it, has an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible with a like liberty for all’. And secondly, that ‘inequalities are arbitrary unless it is reasonable to expect that they will work out for everyone’s advantage, and provided the positions and offices to which they attach, or from which they may be gained, are open to all’.
In 1950s British government, while facing a problem with labour shortage, turned its face to the British colonies and ex-colonies and as a result, immigrants were employed in low-status jobs. Since the immigrant labour was very cheap, the money that the British government saved should have been used for improving the conditions under which the immigrants were living. Therefore, this never happened since the number of immigrants increased. However, immigrants were accepted as workers by the British people but they were socially unwelcomed, and this raised new racial stereotypes in the United Kingdom.
There is a claim that when people are in a comparable situation, they should be treated in an equal manner. As Castberg stated, ” Everywhere , a law which for instance imposed special taxes on person with long arms or short legs, red hair or big ears would be regarded as unjust and unwarrantable, irrespective of whether the law was correctly applied in accordance with its content”. However, equality does not mean that people should be treated in the same manner even if they are considered to fall in the same class because this disregards people’s differences.
Discrimination has a big effect in public relating to any analysis of human rights and can be a problem which occurs in relation to equality before the law. No human being is equal in every respect and can be distinguished not only by mental and physical attributes but also by their particular circumstances. It is these various differences that lead to acts and for which appear to be discrimination. There are numerous situations whereby each human being must not be treated equally otherwise where is the freedom from discrimination?
By equality before the law we mean that when a law is made, each person must be treated in the same way. Equal protection of the law is when applying or enforcing a law which has already been implemented, there should be no differentiation except on a rational and justifiable basis, something which does not create inequality, and as already mentioned, no human being can be treated equally. As an example of the above, traditionally, people and particularly men, are biased against women claiming that women should be focused on their family having a nurturing role. This is like trapping women and removing their freedom of choice as to what they want to do with their lives. Is like denying women their right to choose by restricting their choice between mother-hood and career. Durkheim, deals with the sexual separation in the labour and he states that in the past the gap between men and women was smaller, women retired from public affairs and warfare and focused her attention only to her family. In nowadays, woman’s situation is differentiated from that of man, who has now realized that women are able to participate in the same activities as them.
An illustration of the fact that people are treated differently is that homosexuals in the past could not serve in the army. But, in 1973 the military allowed homosexuals to get into the army. Some may claim that the fact that different Acts and rules apply for homosexuals it is itself discriminatory since it distinguishes them from the other people. However, the law itself previously was discriminatory and the new law is nothing more than positive discrimination and an improvement towards equality. In addition, in 2001 Netherlands was the first country which allowed the marriage between people with the same sex. United Kingdom government introduced the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Moreover, most of the other countries have the civil partnership and as a result of that there is a different status between heterosexuals and homosexuals. This equals to inferiority and inequality.
Accordingly, another thing to consider is whether all societies can follow a particular ideology or whether it is necessary to have many different ideologies which are based on different types of societies. By homogeneous society we mean a society where the citizens have the same values, ethnicity, language and religion. In our days it is difficult to find such homogeneous societies since we all have different language, religion, culture and so on. Especially, the United Kingdom is a multiculturalism society, so it is not possible for the people to live in one homogeneous society. Therefore, in nowadays, there are some examples of such societies, such as Japanese society, Chinese and some African tribes. Hence, if societies have different natures and essences, they naturally call for different programmes, plans, ideals. In this case, one single ideology cannot be applied to all of them.
People in a way tend to “other” each other and tend to think of themselves different, not necessarily better, but at least different. People all over the world are biased, feeling that they do not belong anywhere, that they are strangers, or that they are sub-humans. The only word that comes in my mind when thinking of that is ‘racism’. Every group in this world tends to put some standards for itself and criticizes people consequently, so anyone who meets with these standards belongs to the group and anyone who does not meet with them is the “other.” Other, can be called a person with a different nationality, social class, religion, political ideology and many other types. Emmanuel Levinas stated, ‘act in such a way that you always respect the absolute singularity of the other, and/or the irreducibility of otherness’.
If we look around us, around the whole world, we will realize that racism is an everyday phenomenon, but through the history we have learned that two group of people have treated really bad and discriminated, the women and the black people. People have abandoned an idea that black people are people with no education, uncivilized and that white people are at the top of the hierarchy, and that is just because they have a different colour. They accept the fact that they do not belong in the community and that they do not have the same rights as the white people. But they do have rights and they should stand for them.
Today, the blacks can be considered equal to the whites. They are no longer prevented from going to certain schools, restaurants, or libraries. They can even participate in politics and this can be seen clearly in the United States since its President nowadays is Barak Obama, who is a black person.
The French Declaration was the declaration of men, citizen and others. Does this mean that women are not included? In fact, women did not have a right to vote until 1944 and also, until the 20th century they did not have a right to education and employment. Still, in nowadays women have not reached the top of the status of humanity. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that all “men are born equal in rights and in dignity”. This is evidently a great fallacy. People are not born equal but totally unequal. Indeed, infancy and childhood are the best examples of human inequality and dependency upon others, upon parents, family members and community networks, within which human life starts, develops and ends”.
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After the French Revolution, slavery was abolished but this was not permanent. The human prototype enjoying the rights of the declarations was not only male but also white. The French declaration, as well as the following declarations was not concerned with gender or race. Edmund Burke regarding the rights in the declarations said that they “are not universal or absolute; they do not belong to abstract men but to particular people in concrete societies with their infinitive modification of circumstances, tradition and legal entitlement“.
Marx criticized that Human Rights that turns real people into abstract ciphers. Also, the man of human rights is abstract and empty. They promote the interest of a very concrete person, the selfish and possessive individual of capitalism. The subject of human rights loses her concrete identity, with its class, gender and ethnic characteristics; all real human determinations are sacrificed on the altar of the abstract man lacking history and context. Karl Marx. in the “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, stated that ‘Right by its very nature can consist only in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are measurable only by an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only…One worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another and so on and so forth.. To avoid all these defects, right instead of being equal would have to be unequal’.
All human beings are equally entitled to some rights, Human Rights, despite their sex nationality, religion, colour or any other status. We are all different but all equal. So how can we use our Human Rights, do they really make a difference? The fact that they exist does not make it impossible for people to violate them as it is an everyday phenomenon in every part of the world. People, even governments may say that they act in a way that protects human rights, but as a result their actions are found to be in violation of basic rights. Hence, they may use those rights in order to defence their action which are prima facie immoral.
Human Rights try to form humanity. As we have seen from the genocides some are considered humans, others not. Some have more humanity than others. This is because even though we are considered the same, not all people are originally the same and in order to become the same they first need to be considered inferior. Humanity has many different types. A type of humanity can be considered the fact that thousands of babies in Iraq die every month because of the Western embargo and many babies in Africa die seventeen times more than Europeans babies. Those people found to be in a very low situation of humanity. In addition, poor people in sub-Saharan Africa who are expected to live thirty years less than the average can also be characterized as fewer humans than the other people. Another group of people, who are ill-treated, are the people who have sexual orientations or race and can be considered as imperfect humans.
Humanity is therefore a graded and ranked status with many shades and tires between the superhuman Western, white heterosexual male at the one end and the non human, the concentration camp inmates or the fleeing refugee, at the other.
However, is not everything that vain. Human Rights exist and we can benefit from them. So, how can the Human Rights be prepared to accept the conflict of the variety of cultures which characterize our days? Some can argue that human rights are culturally relative rather than universal. The Vienna Declaration states that “the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind”. This puts an intentional duty towards the States to guard and promote human rights no matter of their cultural systems. While its significance is acknowledged, cultural consideration in no way reduces States’ human rights duties. Human Rights are a contemporary attainment for all cultures. They reflect the dynamic, coordinated efforts of the international community to achieve and advance a common standard and international system of law to protect human dignity.
Human Rights are characterized from a cultural multiplicity and include in a broad sense a number of protections such as, freedom of expression, thought, religion, right to education, and protection of persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, protection of the principle of non-discrimination and so on. There is greater consideration of the ways in which cultures protect the welfare of their people and illustration of the common foundation of human pride on which human rights protection stands. This phenomenon would enable human rights promotion to emphasize the cultural relevance of universal human rights in various cultural contexts. Acknowledgment of particular cultural contexts would serve to smooth the progress of human rights execution and respect. “Working in this way with particular cultures inherently recognizes cultural integrity and diversity, without compromising or diluting the unquestionably universal standard of human rights. Such an approach is essential to ensure that the future will be guided above all by human rights, non-discrimination, tolerance and cultural pluralism.“
To conclude, it is a fact that in theory everything is much easier than in practice, because it is in the practice where the people lose control and act in a way that does not respect others. If we do not accept that each of us is different, then nothing in this world will change, nothing will improve. Discrimination against other people is something that does not bring people together, instead it pushes them apart. We are all part of the same world but what can we do to change this world for the best? Women, minority ethnic group members, and those of a different sexual orientation continue to be equal but still separate, supported by the law but unable to obtain true and complete participation. It is impossible for all of us to be the same but it is upon us to respect our human fellows without criticizing them, in order to be able to live in a harmonious society.
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