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  5. Traditions and Human Rights Practice

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FOCUS March 2008 Volume 51

Traditions and Human Rights Practice


Human rights practice requires an appropriate mindset. Human rights, being part of modern ideas, are bound to clash with some of the traditions and customs in any society.

Traditional and customary practices that keep women, minorities, and other marginalized sections of society subject to violence, discrimination and oppression do not deserve protection. Human rights are meant to address these problems.

Traditions and customs inevitably change however. In the present context such change is largely driven by modern practices that have already affected most societies in terms of livelihoods, daily needs (food, clothing, housing, medical care), systems of governance, and technologies. Human rights provide a guide to this inevitable change by maintaining that all human beings, as individuals and as members of the family and community, should enjoy the fruits of modernity as a matter of right.

Human rights likewise ensure that traditions and customs that protect the human being, individually and collectively, are sustained and enhanced.

Human rights practice works within the traditions and customs in any society. It helps maintain (or promote in many cases) a society that is just, democratic and protective of its weakest members. Traditions and customs that appear at odds with the idea of human rights deserve a careful review in a manner that leads to a change of mindset, and eventually practice.