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Applying cultural relativism to the universal declaration of human rights

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Michelle V.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  3. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  4. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  5. Conclusion

The world at present is composed of countless cultures, each distinctively represented by various languages, religions, and practices. Any individual attempting to study the concept of culture must do so with an open mind, and must also attempt to discard any ethnocentric ideologies. This technique of studying cultures can be compared with cultural relativism, which is the anthropological approach whereby one must maintain a position of neutrality and abandon the ethics and morals of one's own culture as to not judge the behavior or practices of another group (Lavenda & Scultz, 2008). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while claiming to be applicable to all nations, is not compatible with the concept of cultural relativism.

This is made evident through the examination of Articles 3, 4, and 5 of the declaration. To begin, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not adhere to the concept of cultural relativism. Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life, yet the practice of abortion, as well as China's One Child Policy, prove contrary to this statement. Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy through the use of medication or surgical procedures (United Nations, 2010). Women who have a disease which may potentially cause damage to their baby or themselves, and those who do not feel like they possess the emotional, physical or economical stability to have a child, may resort to having an abortion.

[...] United Nations. (2010). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml Vegan Peace. (2004). Sweatshops and Child Labour. Retrieved from http://www.veganpeace. com/sweatshops/sweatshops_and_child_labor.htm. Wetzstein, C. (2010, January 27). With 1-child policy, China 'missing' girls; 'Gendercide' fueling sex trade. Washington Times, pp. [...]


[...] Lastly, within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 declares that, one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment? (United Nations, 2010). The method of capital punishment, which is currently legal in 59 countries, is contradictory of this article (Death Penalty Information Center, 2010). Capital punishment, also commonly referred to as the death penalty, is implemented when an individual commits an extremely severe offence, such as murder. The methods employed by the death penalty are inhumane, and inflict great physical pain upon the condemned. [...]

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