What Are Human Rights? (3): Universal Rights

Universality means that human rights are valid everywhere. This characteristic is of course inherent in the expression itself – human rights are rights of all humans – but is not universally accepted.

Many people, in particular those who benefit from violations of other people’s rights, reject the claim that human rights are universal, primarily because non-universality would allow the continuation of rights violations and hence the continuation of the benefits which almost inevitably result from violations.

Somebody always benefits from the harm inflicted on others, otherwise there would be no harm inflicted.

These benefits are, however, rarely given in justification of non-universality because a justification is usually a moral undertaking, one which therefore cannot start from the premise that benefits for someone justify harm inflicted on someone else. A more common justification can be found in the theory of cultural relativism or in some variation of it.


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