Social Sciences and Humanity Studies Academic Blog

Do you agree that universal human right is valid for all? Why and how?

Posted in My life by Shekhar on February 26, 2012

Since independent scholars and development thinkers including Amartya Sen has widely discussed on different aspect of the validity of the universal human rights so for start I would not agree with the claim that universal human rights are valid for all. However, I insist that there are some minimum standard of values including civil and political liberties, non-violence, equality and right to live that everybody should have respect.

The debate over the validity of universal human rights echoes from the two different corners of this world, western countries including USA and eastern countries including Singapore and China. United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Austria, the Vienna Declaration states – “All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated”. Not agreeing totally, In the same conference, the foreign minister of Singapore warned gave his statement-‘universal recognition of the ideal of human rights can be harmful if universalism is used to deny or mask the reality of diversity’ (Sen, 2000, p.149). This debate, recognized as Lee’s Thesis, argues over the incompatibility of western-imposed human rights with the diversified and heterogeneous eastern societies where “values do not regard freedom to be important in the way that it is regarded in the West”(Sen, 1997). China’s statement in the Human Right conference “Individuals must put the states’ rights before their own.” There are hardcore criticism against human rights which understand the spreading of human rights as the imposition of political ideology from western into other parts and hence with it comes the rest of the liberal packages (Treanor, 2004).

Some criticizes the acceptance of Human Rights as the outcome of “Self-Orientalism ” (Chin-Dahler, 2010) which refers to the taken-for-granted follow of Human rights imposed by Western to the eastern world. Such debate over the validity of universal rights gave rise to the theory of Cultural relativism, which keeps the local cultural traditions (religious, political and legal practices) in center to determine the scope of civil and political rights.

The western accents in the UDHR document itself reflects from the article 4 which states that -No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. Without disagreeing with its objective, the inclusion of slavery system reminds us the cultural practices prevalent during the context of the European colonialism or that of ancient western societies. That tempts us to question over the few democrats or the initiator of UDHR, grounding such provision on western practices. Because In eastern society, slavery never became an issue to revolt for.

Hence, universal human right are just the standards to follow but cannot be imposed on the whole world because some of the provision of UDHR might not be applicable in some countries whose cultural practices might not have been considered while drafting such documents.



Adhikary, J. (2005). Nepalima Gareebeko esthiti: etihasik bibechana. In Bhaskar Gautam, Jaganath Adhikary, Purna basnet (eds.). Nepal ma gareebi ko bahas. Kathmandu; Martin Chautari, pp.49-67

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). 2009 H1N1 Flu (“Swine Flu”) and You. Retrieved from

Chin-Dahler, Patrick (2010). Universal human rights, cultural relativism and the Asian values debate. (February 25, 2012) <Retrieved from;

Diana Ayton-Shenker, (1995).The Challenge of Human Rights and Cultural Diversity. (February 25, 2012) <Retrieved from;

Sen, A .(1997).”Human Rights and Asian Values,” (February 25, 2012) retrieved from <;

Sen, A. (2000). Development as Freedom. New Delhi; Oxford University Press

Shakya, S. (2009). Unleashing Nepal past, present and future of the economy. New Delhi; Penguin Group

Treanor, P. (2004).Why human rights are wrong. (February 25, 2012) Retrieved from



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