On Cultural Relativism, and the Universality of Human Rights

With our most recent study of the rather visceral, but brutally truthful, documentary,¬†The Girl in the River, it is time to pose ourselves certain questions regarding the universality of human rights, and how this is in conflict with the concept of Cultural Relativism. For those of you who are uninformed, cultural relativism is the belief that all actions in a culture must not be viewed through the perspective of a third, neutral party, but from the perspective of the culture itself. For example, a cultural relativist might argue that the federal (government-given) punishment of damaging or otherwise disrespecting the Quran (Muslim holy book) in countries such as Saudi Arabia is justified, as Saudi Arabia is an almost entirely Muslim country, and, as such, all laws would be applied from a traditionalist Muslim standpoint. However, when regarding a topic as serious as the question of honour killings, and whether they should be exempt from punishment, due to them being commonplace in nations in which they are practiced, I feel it is necessary to take a hardline stance on the issue; no grey area. And I am of the firm belief that Human Rights¬†are universal and, above all, unavoidable. If any activity, regardless of its religious or otherwise cultural value, infringes upon basic human rights (as honour killings infringe upon the Right to Life [Article 3 of the Declaration of Human Rights]), it cannot be tolerated in a civilised society. This does not only apply to religious activities; any action that infringes upon human rights merits punishment. If a simple murder, with no ties to religion or family honour, justifies a trial and punishment, regardless of the victim’s family’s forgiveness, then I cannot see how a murder, committed in the name of religion, or the preservation of family honour, cannot be treated the same way; meriting of trial and legal verdict, regardless of forgiveness. One of the pillars of the legal system that drives the world forth, preserving justice and freedom, is that Justice is blind; blind to culture, to race, religion, sex, or ethnicity.