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Different humans, different rights?

Public interest groups should take into account a country's historical, socio-economic and political situation when discussing human rights issues, Deputy Internal Security Minister Chia Kwang Chye said.

This was because different countries have different backgrounds and the implementation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights differed from one country to another, he said.

Does that mean that the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights isn't so universal after all? If two different nations can implement an ammendment differently, what's there to stop a country from implementing it's own version of 'Human Rights'?

But hang on. Let's look at some examples. How about same-sex marriage? Should a person be allowed to marry anyone they choose, even if that someone is of the same sex? After all, article 16 says "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.", and article 2 says, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.". If so, does this mean that if a country has laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, then that country is violating some tenet of human rights?

Yet, there are countries that allow same-sex marriage and some that clearly don't and both sets would claim that they do adhere to the Declaration.

How about another example? Article 18 states that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.".

Does this mean that punishing apostasy with a death sentence is against freedom of religion, and thus human rights?

Some countries do, some countries don't. (For two views on the matter, see this and this.)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not exist in isolation. I believe it isn't so much an article of compulsion as it is a set of guiding principles.

What is important is that people do not avoid debate by arguing "That one their culture and values. Ours different one.". The reasons for and against a certain interpretation of the articles needs to be open and transparent. This is why I disagree with another statement the good Deputy Minister made:
Asked about Gerakanís stand on the Internal Security Act, Chia replied that the party supported the policy, which had been agreed upon by the Barisan Nasional. However, he added that it did not mean there was no need for reviews and improvements once a policy was adopted. "Discussions could still be carried out in closed-door sessions and private conversations."

posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - permalink
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