Saturday, February 19, 2011

Article 16 and Cultural Relativism

The progression and development of the right to nondiscrimination, especially for GLBT members of society, is one that I feel has picked up in the last twenty or so years. However, while America can be seen taking huge steps in the area, there are still many countries in which it is the total opposite. When the question of whether or not we can eventually change Article 16 in the Universal Document of Human Rights, Dan Savage responded, “we must.” But I feel like the true meaning behind the question was lost. Personally, I was more trying to articulate the question of, I guess when relating back to cultural relativism, whether or not it is a reasonable goal to try and change Article 16. I feel like there could easily be a chance for my words to get mistaken here – I am not saying that people should not try to progress things for GLBT rights, I am just frustrated by the idea that it is useless to try, and that it cannot happen. This is mostly a manifestation of the frustration I felt with the reading by Jack Donnelly, “Non-Discrimination and Sexual Orientation: Making a Place for Sexual Minorities in the Global Human Rights Regime.”
In the text Donnelly wrote, “In the short and medium run, there is no chance of anything even close to an international consensus on even a working text for a draft declaration of the rights of homosexuals.” While I understand that the International Document of Human Rights is largely one with fixed standards, this statement by Donnelly really bothered me. I feel like LGBT people have been denied these basic human rights for so long, that they should not have to wait anymore for their rights. I know that it is hard, especially when looking at cultural relativism, to make all cultures agree on an issue. But to deny someone rights purely because they are choosing to love someone that you do not agree with – that to me seems so backwards.
Amongst all these ramblings, I guess my main question is, is this really a long-term goal? Can we, in a relatively shorter period of time, actually come to some sort of global consensus? Furthermore, what steps have to be taken to get things such as Article 16 changed? Do you think it is possible to see this happen in the next generation?


  1. After rereading Article 16, it is interesting that the text is ambiguous about who exactly has the right to marry. The text 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.” Does this mean that a man has the right to marry a woman, and vice versa, but not two men or two women? Or does this mean that each man and each woman has the right to marry whoever they want. As far as I can tell, the term ‘family’ is not specifically defined as a man and a woman. You could make a case that Article 2 can encompass gender rights even though they aren’t specifically named. The article protects freedom from discrimination based on any ‘other status’.

  2. I think that the issue of exactly who has the right to marry would depend upon which nation or group of poeple you ask. Given the time period of when the document was drafted, I would assume tha the wording is more or less intended to apply only to marriage between a man and a woman. However, it is hard to say just how much opposition same-sex marriage would have met with at the time. As for the current state of debates on same-sex marriage, I doubt that it is likely that there will every be a universal agreement between all nations. Those nations that identify themselves largely through a dominant religion are not likely to change their stance on the matter any time in the near future. Perhaps some would consider America a religious country that is in the process of changing its stance, but America is a country that identifies itself largely with heterogeneity rather than homogenity. As a heterogenous nation that has moved away from a practiced specific religious identity, we are able to change our stance on such issues much more readily than other nations. However, most of the nations that are likely to take a more religious or traditional stance against homsexual marriage do not identify themselves as heterogenous in the same way that we do.

  3. Going along with what Perry and Ben have said, I think it's also interesting to note that Article 16 doesn't specify how many people can enter into a given marriage. Nations or groups that practice polygamy could also find protection under Article 16 as it is written.

  4. I would like to agree with everyone above. As to the question of whether we can actually change anything in a relatively short period of time, I have no idea... But what i do know is that we definitely can't if we don't attempt. So I see the movement as over all having a very powerful purpose, whether entirely practical or not, I don't think that the real meaning is found in the immediate accomplishment but rather in the attention brought by both members of the GLBT community and those who are not members who are just in support. It causes the issue to be one that Can't be ignored.

  5. If there was a "like" button on this blog, I would definitely use it on Shannon's comment.


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