Volume 20, 1998
Philosophy and Gender
Common Ground of Feminism and Cultural Relativism in Human Rights Discourse
The Case of Sex-determination Test in India
Feminists and cultural relativists are highly critical of human rights even if their criticisms have taken two diametrically opposed sides. This has created a conflict between the two groups. In this paper, I summarize the views of feminists and cultural relativists and then show that there are many similarities between them despite their differences, for they share a common ground concerning human rights discourse. Based on the similarities, I believe that both must work together on this matter by making changes in an inclusive way with regard to human rights violations. This is true not only at the international level but also at national levels. To demonstrate this, I analyze the issue of the sex-determination test in India and show that if feminists and cultural relativists joined hands, then the problem of aborting female fetuses in India (due to cultural conditioning and leading to the larger problem of adverse sex ratios) could be resolved. I conclude by proposing that medical technology could be channeled in the direction of progress if feminists and cultural relativists work jointly for the promotion of women's rights by recognizing 'different voices' of women across race, class, age, culture, sexual orientation and wealth.