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Feminism And Cultural Relativism In Human Rights Discourse: Sex Determination Test In India

3130 words - 13 pages

Feminism and Cultural Relativism in Human Rights Discourse: Sex-determination Test in India

ABSTRACT: Feminists and cultural relativists are highly critical of human rights even if their criticisms have taken two diametrically opposed sides. This has created a conflict between the two groups. In this paper, I summarize the views of feminists and cultural relativists and then show that there are many similarities between them despite their differences, for they share a common ground concerning human rights discourse. Based on the similarities, I believe that both must work together on this matter by making changes in an inclusive way with regard to human rights violations. This is true not only at the international level but also at national levels. To demonstrate this, I analyze the issue of the sex-determination test in India and show that if feminists and cultural relativists joined hands, then the problem of aborting female fetuses in India (due to cultural conditioning and leading to the larger problem of adverse sex ratios) could be resolved. I conclude by proposing that medical technology could be channeled in the direction of progress if feminists and cultural relativists work jointly for the promotion of women's rights by recognizing 'different voices' of women across race, class, age, culture, sexual orientation and wealth.

Recently, during the world conferences organized by United Nations in Vienna, Cairo and Beijing, the human rights discourse has taken different forms and have created bitter differences among different camps. In these international conferences, feminists claim victory over cultural relativists as feminists were able to reaffirm women's human rights. (1) Feminists and cultural relativists are the two groups which are highly critical of human rights. Sometimes, feminists and cultural relativists have taken two diametrically opposite sides with regard to their criticisms of human rights systems creating a division rather than an unification. In this paper, I intend to show that there is room for common ground between the feminists and cultural relativists though there are some differences between them and there is a need for the cooperation of feminists and cultural relativists on the basis of this common ground not only at the international level but also in the context of India. To achieve this objective, first, I make a general analysis of the views of feminists and cultural relativists in the context of human rights. Second, I explain briefly the similarities and differences between these two views. Third, I analyze the issue of sex-determination test in India as my case study, among many other human rights issues, to demonstrate that if cultural relativists and feminists do not work cooperatively within this common ground, it will not be possible to apply the reproductive technology of amniocentesis in a progressive way rather than in a regressive way as it is now which is creating greater discrimination...

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