P R E S E N T E D B Y
B I S H A L S H A R M A
Are Human Rights Universal?
o The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is half a
century old, but critics are still asking whether
anything in our multicultural, diverse world can be
o Isn't human rights an essentially Western concept,
ignoring the very different cultural, economic and
o Can the values of the consumer society be applied to
societies that have nothing to consume?
o Isn't talking about universal rights rather like saying
that the rich and the poor both have the same right to
fly first-class and to sleep under bridges?
The fact is that there are serious objections to the
concept of universal human rights which its defenders
need to acknowledge honestly, the better to refute
Philosophical views on Universality of HR
o All rights and values are defined and limited by
cultural perceptions. There is no universal culture,
therefore there are no universal human rights.
o Some philosophers have objected that the concept is
founded on an individualistic view of people, whose
greatest need is to be free from interference by the
o Non-Western societies often have a communitarian
ethic which sees society as more than the sum of its
individual members and considers duties to be more
important than rights.
African countries Argument
In Africa it is usually the community that protects and
nurtures the individual: 'I am because we are,
and because we are therefore I am.' In
most African societies, group rights had precedence
over individual rights and conflict resolution would
not necessarily be based on the assertion and defence
of legal rights.
o The Universal Declaration was adopted at a time
when most Third World countries were still under
o 'Human rights' are only a cover for Western
intervention in the affairs of the developing world.
o Developing countries, some also argue, cannot
afford human rights since the tasks of nation-
building and economic development are still
o Suspending or limiting human rights is thus the
sacrifice of the few for the benefit of the many.
The human-rights concept is understood and upheld
only by a small Westernized minority in developing
countries; it does not extend to the lowest rungs of
the ladder. Universality in these circumstances
would be a universality of the privileged.
Human rights reflect Western cultural bias
o Human rights reflect Western cultural bias like the
rights of women.
o How can women's rights be universal in the face of
widespread divergences of cultural practice, when in
some societies marriage is seen not as a contract
between two individuals but as an alliance between
o You cannot follow the model of a 'modern' nation-
state cutting across tribal boundaries and
religious leaders argue
o Some religious leaders argue that human rights can
only be acceptable if they are founded on
transcendent values of their faith, sanctioned by
o There is a built-in conflict between the universality
of human rights and the particularity of religious
The objections also reflect a false opposition
between the primacy of the individual and society
which country can truly claim to be following its
'traditional culture' in a pure form?
o Culture is too often cited as a defence against human
rights by authoritarians who crush culture domestically
when it suits them.
o None have remained in a pristine state.
o All have been subject to change and distortion by
external influence, both as a result of colonialism.
o There is nothing sacrosanct about culture anyway.
o There is much in every culture that societies quite
naturally outgrow and reject.
Are we, as Indians, obliged to defend, in the name of
our culture, the practices of sati or of untouchability?
o The fact that slavery was acceptable across the
world for at least two thousand years does not
make it acceptable to us now.
o Where coercion exists, rights are violated and
these violations must be condemned, whatever the
traditional justification. Coercion, not culture, is
Human rights are fully compatible with the secular
understanding of all faiths.
Every religion seeks to embody certain verities that are
applicable to all humanity-justice, truth, mercy,
Amartya Sen has pointed out that it is the availability of
political and civil rights which give people the
opportunity to draw attention to their needs and to
demand action from the government.
India, China, Chile, Cuba, Lebanon and Panama - played
an active and highly influential part in the drafting of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What exactly are these human rights that someone in
a developing country can easily do without?
right to life?
Freedom from torture?
The right not to be enslaved
not to be physically assaulted, not to be arbitrarily
“Human rights, start with breakfast.”
“Human rights are not the gift of a
particular government or legal code.”
“Human rights can keep the world safe
This is a very basic overview. There are other differences, but these are the main ones.
America’s Funniest Home Videos is a wonderful source of torts videos.
This might be a good place to mention that many torts can also form the basis for a criminal wrong as well (e.g. homicide/wrongful death, robbery/conversion, etc.), but it can also be mentioned at a later point in the presentation.
Take a poll of students to determine whether they think these torts actually happened. The poll may be taken either after each fact scenario or after all of them. These are all actual tort cases.
Explain to students that the focus of the class will be on negligent torts.
There are a wide variety of intentional torts, each with different elements, so the subject is not as amenable to a one or two class session. Strict liability torts are traditionally very uncommon and there is little more else to be said about them than the summary above.
Explain that in order to win a negligent tort claim, the plaintiff must prove each of the four elements. If one of the elements is missing then the plaintiff cannot win (e.g., if the plaintiff cannot prove that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s damages then even if the plaintiff was injured s/he cannot recover).
Ask students to attempt to answer each of the questions on the slide.
In addition, you may want to ask questions such as whether everyone is held to the same reasonable person standard. Ordinarily they are, but some interesting exceptions include professionals such as architects, doctors and lawyers (held to the standard of a reasonable member of their profession) and people with physical disabilities (held to the standard of a reasonable person with such a disability). Note, however, that people with mental disabilities are held to the same standard as people who do not have such disabilities.
There is not necessarily one right answer for any of these individuals. Possible answers include: (1) actively scanning the pool or not placing too much chlorine in the pool; (2) yelling “Timber!” or making sure the surrounding area is clear; (3) keeping the dog on a leash or keeping the dog fenced in; and (4) making sure players are properly hydrated or making sure players are not forced to play injured.
It would be good to mention an actual case where it was held that there was no proximate cause. One good case involves a flaming barge floating down a river that set fire to a house on the riverside and due to a strong wind thirty neighboring houses caught fire. The court held the barge operator liable for the first house, but not the other 29. One of the courts rationales was to promote a social policy that encouraged purchasing homeowner’s insurance.
The theories, on a basic level, are: (1) whether the tortfeasor could have foreseen the consequences of his or her actions; if not no proximate cause; (2) whether the tortfeasor’s actions were the direct cause of the consequences; if there was an intervening cause such as a lightning strike then no proximate cause; and (3) similar to forseeability, whether the harm was within the range of harms that could be expected from the tortfeasor’s actions.