FOUNDATION: Unit I. Why Do We Need Human Rights? 5 of 6

Cultural Oppressions

Suffrage Parade. New York City. May 6, 1912

In many places in the world today, cultural sanctions deny full rights to certain groups, such as women. Human rights standards provide these marginalized groups with the tools and language they need to challenge the power structures that subordinate them.

In many places in Africa, for example, women have used the language of human rights to challenge practices such as female genital mutilation. The movement securing women’s suffrage in the US and in other countries drew its inspiration and legitimacy from the idea of human rights.
A Personal Story

The abuse and murder of Lal Jamilla Mandokhel shows potential consequences when state authorities and cultural institutions operate with no regard for human rights:

In March 1999 Lal Jamilla Mandokhel, a sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl, was repeatedly raped. Her uncle filed a complaint with the police. Police officers detained her attacker, but handed Lal Jamilla over to her tribe. The council of elders decided that Lal Jamilla had brought shame on the tribe, and that the only way to overcome the shame was to put her to death. She was shot on the orders of the council.

Source: Amnesty International, Pakistan: Violence Against Women in the Name of Honour,
September 22, 1999, AI INDEX: ASA 33/017/1999

How can one weigh cultural rights v. human rights?

Amnesty International It’s in Our Hands: Stop Violence Against Women
Pakistanis Slam Police Brutality Against Women Runners
PAKISTAN: Women Face Their Own Crisis