We'll see that a mediate position can be found between what Donnelly has identified as radical cultural relativism (a) and radical universalism (b). Thus, it seems that a cross-cultural consensus can be found on the universality of some basic rights contained in the UDHR, whereas some other articles may be susceptible of cultural adaptation. But in the first place we will examine the position of cultural relativists and its potential weaknesses and hidden rationals
[...] To my view, the UDHR was a necessary step, in particular after the horrors for the Second World War, that had so much damaged the concept of human dignity. One can not blame the UDHR for having stated the primacy of the individual over the State, when everyone had in mind that a State machinery had erased on its own six million people. However, the UDHR undoubtebly suffers from a Western bias, that's why the current debate about its universality is legitimate. For me, it would be easier to determine which rights could be considered as universal if every people could make oneself heard. [...]
[...] And this choice implies an inversion of perspectives. A way out: 'Relative Universality' and the recognition of basic rights So far, the discussion has opposed relativists and universalists. The former deny the concept of universal rights and argue that there only exist cultural rights. The latter strongly believe that the rights of the Declaration are equally important and could be promoted in any part of the world, notwithstanding cultural differences. I personally think that such a confrontation, although necessary, leads us to a dead end. [...]
[...] However, he makes clear that this freedom of interpretation must not affect the core meaning of the right, but rather its scope in allowing different societies to balance the interests of the right-holder with those of the others in its own way[xxv]. But such interpretations, when entailing restrictions on universal rights, must obey two principles: the right to be restricted must be in conflict with a legitimate aim the restriction must be absolutely necessary and proportionate to this legitimate aim. This position is quite close to Donnelly's one, that he has called “relative universality”. Indeed, both analyses assume that rights of the Declaration have to be considered as universal. [...]
[...] Silk reminds us that very idea of human rights means nothing if it does not mean universal human rights”. As a result, it appears that, if we are to preserve the notion, we have to narrow its scope. Hence the resort to the notion of basic rights. The concept has been defined in many different ways, which has led authors to give each their own list of basic rights. For a dominant trend, however, the notion refers to a set of principles embedded in a few common moral values: the respect for human life, dignity, physical integrity and personal liberty are often cited as basic rights. [...]
[...] The inequality of rights between men and women is at variance with art.1, which provides that human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. By the same token, the practice of arranged marriages in India goes against the requirement of “free and full consent of the intending spouses” provided by art.16(2) UDHR. Still in India, the system of social castes, based on the Hinduist belief of reincarnation, runs contrary to the “equal protection of the that everyone is entitled to, pursuant to art.7 of the Declaration. [...]
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