Explore BrainMass

absolute universalism versus cultural relativism ---relevant in the area of gender issues.

What is the difference between Human Rights and Legal Rights?
And how do cultural norms fit into the overall conception of Human Rights in the context of universalism and relativism exemplified in the area of gender issues?

Solution Preview

According to Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth , or status." Nevertheless, social life is full of legitimate distinction and discrimination (Donnelley, 2003, p. 225). Also, from a standpoint of popular American folk culture, the average citizen often makes fun of this basic assumption or postulate of the Human Rights philosophy by cynically expressing the common saying: All humans are created equal, but some are more equal than others."
Jack Donnelley (2003) realizes that the idea of Human Rights itself is historically specific and contingent (p. 7).Historically, human rights have emerged on the basis of an ongoing social, political, cultural, and economic struggle that is conceptualized as being necessary to bring our social reality in line with this seemingly utopian ideal of Human Rights. Thus, in his book "Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice," Donnelley (2003) tries to defend an account of Human Rights but does not argue that these conceptions are timeless, unchangeable, or absolute (p. 8). In any case, however, Human Rights are the rights one is simply entitled to because one is a human being. And in the contemporary world, they are almost universally accepted as ideal standards of ethical conduct. Therefore, according to Donnelley (2003), Human Rights violations are among the strongest complaints that can be made in international relations (p. 7). The Declaration of Human Rights creates international legal obligations for three quarters of the world's states and thus constitutes what Donnelley (2003) calls the "international normative universality" of Human Rights.
Human Rights as Manifesto for Change
However, Human Rights are not just abstract values, such as liberty, equality, and security, but rights, particular social practices to realize those values (p. 11). Many states and local jurisdictions have Human Rights statutes. Traditionally, Human Rights have been thought of as moral rights of the highest order that aim to become legal rights. For example, Donnelley (2003) provides a concrete phase- by- phase description for someone who feels discriminated on the job. In the U.S.A, protection against discrimination on the job is guaranteed on several grounds. Beginning with the lowest right available, depending on one's employment contract, a grievance may be all it takes. But if that is not successful, one ...

Solution Summary

Human Rights Philosophers face the dilemma of absolute universalism versus cultural relativism ---relevant in the area of gender issues.