The Trouble with Tradition

In an excellent article, Human Rights Watch analysis the struggle within the UN system between "values" and "rights". In 2012, two resolutions of interest to this discussion were passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

In June, the first-ever U.N. resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons.

In September, another resolution “promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind.” 

A close look at the context from which this resolution arose reveals that traditional values are often deployed as an excuse to undermine human rights. And in declaring that “all cultures and civilizations in their traditions, customs, religions and beliefs share a common set of values,” the resolution invokes a single, supposedly agreed-upon value system that steamrolls over diversity, ignores the dynamic nature of traditional practice and customary laws, and undermines decades of rights-respecting progress for women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities, among others.

In countries around the world, Human Rights Watch has documented how discriminatory elements of traditions and customs have impeded, rather than enhanced, people’s social, political, civil, cultural, and economic rights.

Read the full analysis of the juxtaposition between values and rights from Human Rights Watch here.