Rights as Culture
Culture is one of the most important social aspects that have been guiding humans for centuries. Different people have always followed different cultures. It is through culture that people are diverse and this influences their perception of different issues. The relationship between people in society is mainly governed by culture. Culture also influences the beliefs of the people in society. The human rights issues are also influenced by culture. Human rights are considered the basic fundamental rights that should be enjoyed by all humans regardless of their culture (Hood, 97).
Some aspects of culture have been identified as the stumbling block to implementing human rights. However, human rights are also a concept of culture. This creates some challenges in terms of addressing the human rights issues without considering the cultural issues and aspects. The paper thus discusses the concept of rights as a culture.
According to Cowan, rights as culture is one of the conjunctions between rights and culture (10). The anthropologists consider law as culture as it is aimed at governing the daily lives of the people. The law is usually applied to a certain group of people who may be diverse in nature. The citizens are required to abide by the law in all their activities. This is similar to culture where the people are required to abide by their cultural practices and beliefs.
The concept of human rights is derived from the law. In most countries, the national laws have clearly defined the rights of the people. This is also the same for the international laws that have been developed by the bodies such as the United Nations. Rights are, therefore, culture as they are derived from the laws which in itself is considered a culture.
The relationship between the law and culture makes rights a cultural issue. Since the law is an object of analysis in terms of cultural issues, the rights are also part of culture. Most of the rights that have been outlined in the laws are derived from the culture of the people. This plays an essential role in linking rights to culture.
The rights in most cases are not informed by the philosophical assumptions. They are instead informed by the ideas of self and sociality. The ideals of self and sociality are closely related to the cultural aspects. In some instances, some of the rights issues have ended up being misinterpreted and misrepresented after leaving out the cultural aspects. According to Abu-Lughod, (p 784), the issues of rights and culture were misunderstood in the Afghan War. The American government insisted that it was freeing the women from the oppressive culture and upholding their rights.
However, this failed to achieve any success as culture was considered different from the rights. Most women still preferred their cultural practices as compared to the rights issues. The wearing of the burqa which was seen as oppressive by the Americans did not stop even after the fall of the Taliban. This is a further indication that rights cannot be separated from culture.
It is through culture that the people are able to understand the issues of rights. Most lawmakers are increasingly considering rights as culture. This has led to the development of a concept that is commonly referred to as human rights culture.
Cultural issues are considered a tool for expanding the legal and political apparatus. The culture of the people has to be respected in order for the aspects of rights to be successful. According to Hood, (p 102), there have been attempts to secure human rights while preserving the cultural identities of the people. This has been successful when dealing with the aspects of nature as well as political issues.
The Islam world has faced some challenges in terms of maintaining the culture while securing human rights. Most of the rights issues that have led to these challenges are mainly associated with the western world which has totally different culture. This has led to confusion and hence making it difficult to implement some of the human rights aspects. It is therefore an indication that rights are a cultural aspect. Any attempts to implement or enforce the rights issues on a particular group of people are bound to fail when culture is ignored (Calhoun, 870).
However, it is also important to note that culture is not static and it undergoes changes over time. It is through the changes in the cultural aspects that some of the countries have been able to fully embrace the rights issues that were not initially part of their culture.
The changes in culture have made it possible for some of the rights issues to be addressed. In the Arab world as well as Africa, culture restricted some of the practices such as the education of girls. However, with the changes in culture, the education for girls is currently acceptable.
The concepts of equality are currently being embraced in most parts of the world as a result of cultural changes. Most societies are striving to improve the equality between men and women. There have been calls for positive cultural aspects to be maintained in order to ensure that the rights are promoted. According to Brown, (p 196), there have also been calls to ensure that the culture is copyrighted. This can also play an important role in ensuring that the cultures of a particular group of people are not exploited.
The rights of the sex workers have also been one of the contentious issues in most parts of the world. According to Kotiswaran, (p 582), there have been attempts to eliminate the sex trade through the implementation of strict legislation. This is a result of how culture perceives the issues of the sex trade. Most cultures have negative perceptions with regard to the sex trade and prostitution. As a result of this, it has become difficult for the rights of sex workers to be protected. This is however practiced in the cultures that are less conservative.
In conclusion, it is evident rights can be considered as culture. This can be attributed to the link between culture, law, and rights. It is evident that cultural issues are usually considered when developing the law, which has a direct impact on the rights. The practical examples of the Afghan war indicate that rights laws and issues cannot be implemented when culture is not considered.
- Kotiswaran, Prabha. Born unto Brothels-Toward a Legal Ethnography of Sex Work in an Indian Red-Light Area. Law & Social Inquiry Volume 33 (2008), Issue 3, 579–629.
- Cowan, Jane. Culture and Rights after Culture and Rights. American Anthropologist, Vol.108 (2006), No. 1.
- Calhoun, Craig. The Class Consciousness of Frequent Travelers: Toward a Critique of Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism. The South Atlantic Quarterly 101:4 (2002).
- Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and its Others. American Anthropologist, 104:3 (2002), 783-790.
- Hood Steven. Rights Hunting in Non-Western Traditions. Human Rights Law. 1997.
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