The Significance and Scope of Cultural Relativism In Modern International Human Rights Laws


This article focuses on one of the ongoing fundamental debates in international human rights discourses, regarding conflicts and possibility of compromise between two philosophical notions, namely- ‘cultural relativism’ and ‘universality of human rights’. Upholding the idea of ‘universality’ as the basic premise of modern human rights law, this article argues that the idea of ‘cultural relativism’ that is, observance of international human rights respecting different cultural beliefs, values and practices should not be abandoned wholly. It is also specifically pointed out here that the reservation of many states on compliance of international human rights in order to avoid their respective ‘state obligation’ on basis of ‘cultural relativism’ are not grounded on sound reasoning and true meaning of ‘cultural relativism’. Recognizing an inevitable necessity of reconciliation between two conflicting but overlapping notions of human rights, this article endeavours to find out such an harmonious approach and proposes that the idea, i.e. ‘universalism’ should be coined and interpreted reasonably and liberally, giving space to incorporate elements of relativists’ concerns in the framework of international human rights regime and compliance mechanism. In this regard, this article endeavours to explore whether the weak view of cultural relativism should fit within the framework of universal international human rights laws. It also explores different techniques to integrate cultural diversity into the universality of human rights so that an effective, coherent and all- accepted compliance mechanism can be promoted across the globe. In order to facilitate this argument,this article also shows that many of universal international human rights provisions are capable of being adopting different cultural and societal particularities.

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