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Human Rights Does not Destroy our Culture Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Chris Rarumae, Vanuatu Aug 19, 2007
Human Rights   Opinions


As a youth I used to have the same view as Mr. Leonard Olea (Solomon Star published on 20/ 07/07) with regards to human rights destroying our cultural values and traditional practices. However, after doing some readings I realize that this is a misconception. Most of the basic human rights obligations that are enshrined in the founding international human rights documents are not novel, nor do they have any elements that in any way preach against our cultural values and traditional practices.

I do not blame Mr. Olea for his view and I appreciate him coming in from that angle. In fact, I suppose that this perspective is so dominant among many youths and even most of our population today. Mr. Olea’s remarks shows how imperative it is to educate our society on the importance and legitimacy of human rights.

The disrespecting-attitude as observed by Mr. Olea is not caused by introducing human rights as a law in our legal system particularly in the context he was referring to but rather, in the lack of knowledge, misinterpretation or misconception of the human rights obligation. My brief account on this issue aims to clarify this misconception and I hope that it contributes to share some lights on the underlying problem associated with human rights.

Human right emerged into the international stage in the early 19th century because of the need to intervene as a result of the many atrocities, barbarous acts and the horrors of the world wars which shocked the conscience of mankind. People from the leading countries at that time designed this concept with the aim of avoiding any repetition of such events or at least make them less probable. The prime idea behind this international human right movement was to advocate for respect and utmost human dignity. Therefore from the very beginning, respect for the entity known as human being was sole and leading factor behind this.

The Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR) (more like an international constitution for human right) declared in Article 1 that “...all human… should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.” All human beings have a scope within which they are allowed to act towards one another - within the boundary of the spirit of brotherhood. Therefore, you can do whatever you want to do but not to the extent where your action becomes disrespectful, harmful or bring adversity upon another person. The misconception of this principle is where people think that human rights grant them right to do whatever they want to do and that is it; this is unfair and very wrong.

There is no such thing as “right” whatsoever in the law as far as human right is concern. Every “right” comes with responsibility and thus they are not absolute. No person has the “right” to do just whatever he or she wants to do. I presume that there is need at this stage to do more human right awareness in order that we avoid such misconception of the public in the future.



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