Term Paper: Human Rights and Culture Smehra

Pages: 4 (1127 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Anthropology  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Politics have become so heavily involved with clashing religious factions, that cultural autonomy has been undermined, and Northern Ireland's communities are divided, not just because of religion, but between being Irish and English. The Irish of Northern Ireland have had their culture divided and 'ransacked' making them less unique to Ireland's culture than the Republic of Ireland, even though they share the same traditions and cultural background. While this is a political issue, and one that doesn't affect the tradition of the culture, it is an example of what could happen if cultures and individuals within them are not given autonomy over their own culture.

The culture of indigenous peoples is what makes them unique, though paradoxically, it is also what brings indigenous cultures together. There is a common thread that runs through them, be it through their folklore, or their beliefs on life and death. Regardless of how similar cultures may become, or be argued as being 'practically equal', they can never be regarded as the same. Cultures are defined by the people who follow and practice particular beliefs, traditions and folklore and, autonomy within a culture is based on a group making and acting upon decisions together. Another culture can not impose on this autonomy because they do not share the same group dynamic, that is to say, they are different, therefore should not hold the right to these decisions.

Cultural autonomy allows a culture to express its talents and abilities, and inherently its beliefs. It gives direction to a community; the individual that relies on culture to act as the foundation of who they are. If we take autonomy away from the culture we inadvertently take autonomy away from the individual- we are forcing our own Free Will upon someone else because of their culture. For no other reason, this kind of action goes against human rights.

We are coming into an age where the world is being defined on its multi-culturalism. Individuals are discovering their heritage and cultural backgrounds and exploring what culture means to them. We are also in an age where many people still fear cultures outside of their own. This is a fear based on ignorance and is making it harder for certain cultures to coexist together. This is shown through the perception of Muslims in America after the events of 9/11. Cultural autonomy gives us identity, and formulates a basis from which we grow and develop as human beings. To refuse cultures the right to their autonomy means we are refusing certain individual rights to groups in society, and therefore creating an imbalance in community and individuals.

If we decide to place our own laws and practices over a culture that has governed themselves under similar laws (right vs. wrong, etc.) but refuse them their cultural rights, we are still taking away their autonomy. Cultures may be similar in how they perceive crime and punishment, but they should not have to govern themselves outside of their own beliefs, regardless of how we may feel about them. We are a group looking in from outside of their cultural circle and therefore should not act or make a decision in the group. It is not our right.


Demerath N.J. & Karen S. Religion, Politics, and the State: Cross-Cultural Observations CrossCurrents, Spring 1997, Vol. 47 Issue 1. Online issue: http://www.crosscurrents.org/Demerath.htm [END OF PREVIEW]

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