Universality of Human Rights

Paper Info
Page count 9
Word count 2545
Read time 10 min
Subject Sociology
Type Critical Writing
Language 🇬🇧 UK


Human rights are fundamentally guarded by the moral issue of equality, despite people’s cultural differences. Human rights’ essence and issue in lieu of contemporary social and political environment relate to communitarianism’s fundamental concept. As human rights belong to the individual and aim at establishing globally recognized legal norms and moral values, communitarianism targets to build the community’s connection. Human rights equalize people regarding their social, political, and legal affairs (Oppenheimer et al., 2020). At the same time, communitarianism focuses on maintaining individuals’ personal and social identity in order to preserve the individual connection to the surrounding community. This paper seeks to address the universality of human rights asserting its philosophical doctrine ideas, universality, indivisibility, and inalienability as crucial in relating to the concept of communitarianism and neoliberalism (Cowden & Singh, 2017). Therefore, it is important to note that the universality of human rights does not necessarily mean that there will not be any form of conflicting influence between each of such elements.

Salient Characteristics of Human Rights

Ideally, human rights are guarded by moral claims of equality irrespective of their creed, color, cultural difference, caste, or birthplace. These fundamental rights are primarily based on the idea of universality (Assister, 2003). They are the minimum dues that every individual demand against the state or any other institution in society by virtue of being part of the human family. As such, no one should be deprived of their birthrights irrespective of any consideration. Fundamental principles define human rights as inalienable, non-prescriptible, universal, indivisible, essential and necessary, inherent, and directly connected to dignity (Rekret, 2017). It is impossible to achieve spiritual, moral, social, and physical welfare without these principles. They fulfill the purpose of human life and provide the right conditions for people’s material fulfillment.

Fundamental rights are irrevocable, interdependent, and interrelated since the realization of one may not be possible without the fulfillment of another. Each contributes to the satisfaction of an individual’s development and psychological needs. They cannot be taken away by any authority since they are embedded in the nature of human social nature (Whyte, 2017). However, it is important to add that an essential aspect of birthrights is their universality. They are seen this way because each individual is born within a society, and where both the latter and former need to compel each other’s needs.

Ethical Considerations Regarding Human Rights

One should note that ethics is an essential concept in any societal setting since right and wrong choices permeate every human’s daily life. It takes a considerable portion of an individual’s life at all levels, whether to act logically or formulate responsible governments and organizations. As an idea, ethics refers to the set of standards that guide people’s behavior in a wide range of scenarios. Thus, one can take a particular thought from the available choices after engaging in a series of rational evaluations (Sikkink, 2019). For example, the banning of some forms of garments in educational institutions is not only a question of religious concerns but also secular notions (Bennoune, 2007). These decisions’ primary sources are culture and religion, although they do not always address all of the moral challenges faced by people.

Ethical Relativism

There is a wide range of situations when ethical considerations do not share a fixed perspective and continuously shift depending on the circumstances. For instance, some anthropologists highlight the examples of acceptable practices in a given setting, which would be unacceptable in another culture. Such issues include polygamy, torture, infanticide, and sexism, whose differences prompt questions about universal moral principles. The variations in the problems of traditions and diverse belief systems, resulting in the concept of ethical relativism. It refers to the theory that one’s way of life primarily determines the guiding propositions of one’s way of life (Barkin & Sánchez, 2020). For example, any form of militant discourse can be attributed to community-based notions of political culture (Das, 1992). Hence, an action is either wrong or right as dictated by the norms of any given community.

Consequently, following the equivalent thought pattern, rights can sometimes compete with each other in a wide range of setups. As such, positive action in a particular culture may be taboo, which validates the claim of ethical relativists that there are no standard moral perceptions. If the ideology is true, then resolving intercultural disputes can prove somewhat difficult. However, moral ethicists firmly reject the notion of ethical relativism, arguing that even though practices may differ, the moral principles are the same.

The Foundation and Universality of Human Rights

Over the years from the onset of philosophical debates on human rights and their value, there is a continuous revision and reconceptualization process. The international fundamental rights doctrine is grappling with the three most essential concepts. The ideas, of universality, indivisibility, and inalienability, are seen as the basis of birthrights although they themselves share controversies. These ideologies’ main challenge is cultural relativism, which states that human rights are culturally hegemonic and neo-imperialistic. However, the relativist analogy involves a debilitating self-contradiction which is somewhat misleading. The rebuttal happens when it postulates that moral sources’ only validity originates from norms that preclude one from making consistent virtue judgment.

Moreover, cultural relativism makes universal deduction while arguing that the ultimate good to be respected above all is tolerance. Essentially, one can say that it is an instinctively self-contradictory theory that explains universalism through its rejection of the concept. It is imperative to note that its new position is hence foundationally incompatible with fundamental rights. The phenomenon exists because birthrights cannot occur without a shared moral judgment.

However, there are cases of genuine interests which possess a significant challenge in achieving a unified arrangement. There is a risk of mandating cultural practices over human rights is the compromising human rights integrity. Yet, everyone has the right to act as guided by their belief systems within their community to allow for self-determination. It raises the dilemma of attempting to preserve traditional heritage while protecting the individuals’ globally accepted birth rights in the given setting (Karimovna, 2019). As such, there is a need for resolving such conflicting morals to ensure that the individuals enjoy their freedom without compromising their beliefs.

One such thought triggers liberalistic philosophy which thrives on prioritizing equality of persons irrespective of their origin. However, critics perceive that the diverse ethical perspectives may justify the denial of some rights (Kaygusuz, 2015). The opposing dogma follows that in the preservation of some of the conflicting fundamental rights, the access of some of them may be integrated with social responsibilities. In respecting the equality of persons, the contradictory notion that can be associated with it is the fact that the freedom of individuals to adhere to their beliefs is equally a human right. The two level-based approach separates people from their belief systems. It appears promising although it leaves some significant questions unanswered such as the challenge of intolerant beliefs (Sangiovanni, 2017). Thus, one will need to identify the philosophies that will deny the right holders their dignity if not followed.

Some conflicts between human rights and culture are imaginary, and there exist different types of relationships between them. Most of the moral values drawn from norms do not conflict the universal birthrights. They enjoy a degree of compatibility even in cases where they seem to contradict each other. For instance, there are cases where both desire the same action, although for various reasons. Apart from the incompatible scenarios, some have apparent incompatibility where they both prescribe similar conduct but appear to conflict due to the different circumstances (Kälin & Künzli, 2019). Other relationships include potential convergence which stems from ethical traditions that are formulated to support fundamental rights. Therefore, it is only in the case of direct incompatibility that a conflict explicitly exists between them.

Challenges to the Universality and Inalienability of Human Rights

It is disturbing to note that the very inspiration and satisfaction of birthrights poses a straight encounter to their existence. Human rights are inalienable since they move from one to the other to safeguard human existence and cannot be taken away because of their sole purpose. For this reason, they are universal, unlike if they were merely inventions whose validity may be argued. If supernatural powers are eliminated from the analogy, the remaining defense of the fundamental rights is their inherence to the nature of people’s lives (Freeman, 2017). The argument is flawed because there is no common divine origin accepted in the world. As such, the religious beliefs of theistic groups such as Muslims and Christians do not qualify morals to be universally ordained.

The legitimacy of human rights cannot be drawn from religious beliefs because in approving that of a given culture one compromises those of another. An alternative solution would be viewing them as being natural rights that any person can deduct from society. Nevertheless, atheistic criticism of the idea cannot be assumed since it eventually concludes that birthrights are merely inventions of the mind. Consequently, the aftermath is a variation of perspectives since when reflecting on the same, each individual will design their thoughts.

Thus, the universality of human rights gains authority only when people come together and agree on the bare minimum leading to adherence. Human rights can originate from religions or any other prerequisite of communities and acquire acceptance globally. It is equally conceivable for them to be recognized collectively because the principles have similar results. For instance, there are similarities in perspective on most people’s issues whether they are Muslims, atheists, Christians, or natural rights theorists. They all agree on how individuals should be treated, which can form the basis of international standards. Nonetheless, this path can only lead to the benefits drawn from such propositions and not to the origin. The difference that can be contentious is where the debate on the practical application of the agreed-on doctrines.

The Relationship Between Human Rights and Communitarianism

Communitarians seek to perceive human beings firstly in terms of their socio-cultural identity. In contrast, human rights do not explicitly define a particular approach in its capacity to preserve individual dignity and respect. The cosmopolitan view that the emancipatory power of individuals’ capacity for reasoning and self-dependence develops from the belief that thinking capacity is a shared role capable of founding the moral principles which aim to deliver humanity from the backwardness of ignorance and superstition. Moreover, people’s cultural outlook and their capacity for reasoning are strongly divergent principles to base the construction of international human rights.

Additionally, communitarianism cannot be reduced to a single theory regarding the community since it encompasses a combination of thought structures with varied theoretical formations. Regarding the universality of human rights, communitarianism’s varied hypothetical nature makes it challenging to ascertain what unites groups of people. For instance, focusing on a person’s character and adducing legal rights from that interaction as propagated by the human rights doctrine, then concerns of race, citizenship, class, or religious affiliation become non-issues or at least subsidiary. However, one can assume that the focus can be put on citizenship as a measure of community, according to most countries’ Constitutions. In that case, one must differentiate between citizens and foreigners before certain human rights are accorded.

Practical Application

The practical application of these concepts becomes essential when analyzing women’s clothing in different countries, especially those from patriarchal settings. Nonetheless, it is imperative to note that more attention is paid to a female’s dress code, than to their male counterparts. The critique can be applied to almost any country, even the Western ones, which are perceived as the most developed in regards to freedom. The challenge has been present for a better part of recorded history to date. However, other states have designed laws that enforce how women dress in workplaces and any public setting.

In international human rights laws, everyone has the freedom to manifest their beliefs. The way people dress can be a peculiar expression of religious propositions or act as cultural identities. As a rule, these rules allow everyone to choose the kind of clothing to wear and cover themselves both in private and public. As such, governments should enforce, protect, and respect the rights of any individual who wishes to express their conviction and identities. Hence, they are required to create suitable environments where the citizens are free to enjoy these rights without any form of coercion. Interpretations of norms of religions do not legitimize imposing rules on people who choose to wear different clothes.

Every state is mandated to safeguard persons from being intimidated by anyone be it family or religious figures for choosing a different kind of wear. According to international laws, the only time when a person’s right to choose their mode of dressing is limited to when they are prescribed by law or address a viable purpose approved by international laws (McKinney, 2019). The other exception is when the mannerism of clothing is demonstrably appropriate for re-evaluation. Therefore, there is an array of intricate details, which need to be considered when discussing one’s rights for outfit-based expressions.

However, in some regions, there are norms associated with dress codes representing particular stereotypes expressed legally in policy and practice. These laws are remarkably impactful since the state actors believe that how a woman dress represents the community’s value system. It is in total disregard for the individual opinion of the affected women. The most direct observation of the dressing discrimination against women is on a state’s assumption that they are bound to observe them. The false perception is that because the females are from a given culture, they automatically subscribe to the environment’s norms (Hodgson, 2017). When they choose, other forms of expression that are not aligned with society’s beliefs are forced to comply with the rules imposed on them.

The Contrast

The regulations manifest the underlying discriminatory prejudices and a firm desire to control a woman’s sexuality. The females are objectified, and their autonomy is withdrawn from them, and in some cases, they are exposed to severe punishments. The consequences include physical violence or extreme stigmatization after psychological manipulation to make them feel responsible for what befell them (McKinney, 2019). Some are sanctioned for public shaming or governments refusing to provide public services to those who rebel against the laws. In Iran, the women’s dressing is expected to be loosely fitting, with head scarves and cover almost every part of their body. However, in some regions such as the US, dressing is seen as overly religious. The decision to cover one’s head with the scarf is an expression of one’s beliefs, which is a universal right and can have an impact on another female’s choices.


From the evaluation of the critical parameters of human rights, which are commonly accepted, universal, indivisible, and inalienable, it is apparent that they are contentious. The result of the given assessment is evident on close inspection, revealing that some universal rights can appear to conflict with others. The claim’s rationality is drawn from the analysis of ethical relativism, secularism, and the foundations of morality. The case study under review reveals that a woman’s decision on some of their dress codes inherently impacts others although they are operating within their rights. Consequently, people need to continuously evaluate the basis of the existing birth rights critically to enhance their inclusivity.


Assister, A. (2003). Revisiting universalism. Palgrave Macmillan.

Barkin, D., & Sánchez, A. (2020). The communitarian revolutionary subject: New forms of social transformation. Third World Quarterly, 41(8), 1421-1441. Web.

Bennoune, K. (2007). Secularism and human rights: A contextual analysis of headscarves, religious expression, and women’s equality under international law. Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 45(2), 367-426. Web.

Cowden, S., & Singh, G. (2017). Community cohesion, communitarianism and neoliberalism. Critical Social Policy, 37(2), 268-286. Web.

Das, V. (1992). Time, self, and community: Features of the Sikh militant discourse. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 26(2), 245-259. Web.

Freeman, M. (2017). Human rights. John Wiley & Sons.

Gilabert, P. (2019). Human dignity and human rights. Oxford University Press.

Hodgson, D. L. (2017). Gender, Justice, and the problem of culture: From customary law to human rights in Tanzania. Indiana University Press.

Kälin, W., & Künzli, J. (2019). The law of international human rights. Oxford University Press.

Karimovna, M. G. (2019). Bioetics-A component of culture: Development tendencies and basic features. Asian Journal of Multidimensional Research, 8(9), 112-115. Web.

Kaygusuz, S. (2015). The well of trapped words: Selected stories. Comma Press.

McKinney, C. (2019). Sexual coercion, gender construction, and responsibility for freedom: A Beauvoirian account of me too. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 40(1), 75-96. Web.

Oppenheimer, D. B., Foster, S. R., Han, S. Y., & Ford, R. T. (2020). Comparative equality and anti-discrimination law. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Rekret, P. (2017). Derrida and Foucault: Philosophy, politics, and polemics. Rowman & Littlefield.

Sangiovanni, A. (2017). Humanity without dignity. Harvard University Press.

Sikkink, K. (2019). Evidence for hope: Making human rights work in the 21st century (Vol. 28). Princeton University Press.

Whyte, J. (2017). Human rights and the collateral damage of neoliberalism. Theory & Event, 20(1), 137-151. Web.

Cite this paper


EduRaven. (2022, June 14). Universality of Human Rights. Retrieved from https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/


EduRaven. (2022, June 14). Universality of Human Rights. https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/

Work Cited

"Universality of Human Rights." EduRaven, 14 June 2022, eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/.


EduRaven. (2022) 'Universality of Human Rights'. 14 June.


EduRaven. 2022. "Universality of Human Rights." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/.

1. EduRaven. "Universality of Human Rights." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/.


EduRaven. "Universality of Human Rights." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/.


EduRaven. 2022. "Universality of Human Rights." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/.

1. EduRaven. "Universality of Human Rights." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/.


EduRaven. "Universality of Human Rights." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/universality-of-human-rights/.