I attended the UN Global Voices film festival last evening, and they held a panel discussion on human rights and cultural heritage. During the panel, I wondered at what point does human rights take precedence over cultural heritage. And when that happens, I wondered how we could help eradicate the practice without sounding like an imperialistic world power trying to impose our values and morals onto other cultures.
It is a heinous practice that seems to be part of rite of passage into adulthood for sub-Saharan African females. I picked this example because this seems to be a clear human rights violation.
Should the international community or even foreigners living in these countries stand up to voice their outrage on this practice or should they respect the native’s right to pass their tradition down to another generation. For instance, should a Peace Corps volunteer working in Kenya refuse to go to a female circumcision ceremony or should that person respect her hosts and do as the Romans do?
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. I feel that the only way that this practice can be changed is from within the community themselves so that the people can feel that they have ownership of their decision. However, that could take a long time to do.
Education is the key, and the developing world needs to properly educate its female populace. The right to education is a human right that was declared by the United Nations in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN should restrict voting privileges of any country in violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, we know this won’t happen because of politics.
Should we respect a country’s cultural heritage or should we trumpet human rights and denounce their practice? What are your thoughts?