ARE HUMAN RIGHTS A WESTERN CONSTRUCT? FROM THE CONFUCIUS PEACE PRIZE TO THE PRACTICE OF SUTTEE IN INDIA

Abstract

Author(s): Thomas NG

Raimundo Pániker, a Hindu- Roman Catholic theologian and academic states in his paper, Is the Notion of Human Rights a Western Concept?, “Does another culture also have the notion of Human Rights? --assuming that such a notion is absolutely indispensable to guarantee human dignity. No question is neutral, for every question conditions its possible answers. . . Human rights may turn out to be a Trojan horse, surreptitiously introduced to other civilizations. . . Can democracy imposed and remain democratic?”(Panikkar, 1982: 238). Pániker argues the notion of Human rights is a western construct, non-universal and should be subjected or be malleable to the features of local culture (cultural relativism) or risk human rights being introduced like a Trojan horse, risking the survivability of local cultures (Panikkar and Panikkar, 1982: 247). In this paper I will argue while human rights are indeed a western concept, the adoption of human rights as a universal concept is a necessary one. I will base my reasoning upon the case study of the practice of Suttee in the Indian subcontinent.

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