Human Rights vs. Cultural Rights

A few days ago Lorenz from an  anthropologi blog commented on a Pakistani, female anthropologist named Samar Minallah. This woman has spent her career helping raise awareness for human rights issues in her own country despite the enormous gender discrimination that pervades her country.  In the interview  Minallah spoke about a tradition in Pukhtun culture, which is a people group located in the northwest part of the country. Swara is the name of this tradition and it entails the exchanging of underage girls to settle feuds between families. These girls are subject to verbal, physical, and emotion abuse and sometimes even die for the families sake. Minallah talks in the article about how these brutal actions most likely stemmed from a well meaning tradition, and still today the girls being given are told they will be peacemakers between the two families.

I was listening to a lecture today in an anthropology class about the difference between human rights and cultural rights. This blog made me think about the lecture I was listening to earlier and really examine what was happening in this Pukhtun tradition. The whole thing is obviously a violation of human rights. The Pakistani government has even recently upped the punishment for such crimes. This makes me wonder how many times in our own history we have covered up clear human rights violations with mentally labeling them (if not verbalizing it) as cultural rights or norms. A few stand out for sure…