"All humans are members of the same body Created from one essence"

"Human beings are members of a whole in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain."

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Ethnocentrism and Human Rights

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view one's own culture as superior and to use one's own standards and values in judging outsiders.

Some people consider their own cultural beliefs to be truer, more proper, or more moral than those of other groups.

During my Cultural Anthropology course, I have often reexamined my own ethnocentric beliefs. I have understood that one of my goals, as an open-minded person, is to show the value of the lives of others!

But what happens when cultural practices, values, and rights come into conflict with human rights?

According to an idea called cultural relativism, it is not right to use outside standards to judge behavior in a given society; such behavior should be evaluated in the content of the culture in which it occurs.

But several cultures have customs requiring female genital modification and many human rights advocates have been opposed to such practices.

The idea of human rights invokes a sphere of justice and morality beyond and superior to particular countries, cultures, and religions. Human rights mean that people have the right to speak freely, to hold religious beliefs without persecution, and not to be murdered, injured, enslaved, or imprisoned without charge. Human rights are seen as inalienable (nations cannot abridge or terminate them).

But the cultures in Africa and the Middle East which have customs requiring female genital modification claim that they have cultural rights. Unlike human rights, cultural rights are interested not in individuals, but in groups. Cultural rights include a group's ability to raise its children in the ways of its ancestors.

Some anthropologists choose not to study a particular culture because they know in advance that they will be confronted to a morally repugnant practice or behavior. But do you think that when confronted with such behavior, an anthropologist must make a judgment about it?

Should we describe and judge other cultures by using our own cultural standards?

Or should use cultural relativism in order to have a methodological position rather than a moral stance? avoiding the use of outside standards to judge behavior in a given society...

But it is so difficult for me, as a Cultural Anthropologist student, to accept the clitoridectomy and infibulation that some cultures impose on little girls!! Infibulation involves sewing the lips (labia) of the vagina to constrict the vaginal opening. I cannot accept female genital mutilation (FGM) and I am completely opposed to this custom.

This custom infringes on a basic human right: disposition over one's body and one's sexuality!! I hope that these practices will fade and disappear!

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