Debates surrounding human rights

2.4.1 Individual versus collective rights, 2.4.2 Universal rights versus cultural relativism, and 2.4.3 Politicization of human rights

For this section, we are going to focus on debating different perspectives. We have already covered lots of the knowledge needed to evidence the debates, and now we will spend time thinking of the arguments we can make.

It is common that Paper 2 essay questions are based on one of these debates and these lessons are directly created to prepare you for this type of essay question.

Task instructions.

  • In groups, you will give a short panel 'debate' to the class debating your question.

  • You will have time to prepare and one lesson we will have the presentations.

  • Imagine you are being on a TV panel show with each of you representing a different perspective. You can even give yourself name badges to show which group you represent.

  • You should include real-life examples and facts (dates, names, statistics etc.) to evidence your arguments.

Debate 1:

Which is more important: the rights of the individual or the rights of the community?

  • Are there specific situations where we should give up individual rights for collective good? Or are the rights of the individual always more important?

Debate 2:

Should human rights be adapted to local cultures or should all peoples everywhere have the same rights?

  • How does the current human right frameworks consider cultural relativism?

  • Would the framework of human rights be strengthened or weakened if it made greater recognition of different cultures?

Debate 3:

Are human rights inevitably political?

  • Will governments and organisations always use human rights for their own political gains?

  • Does it matter?

Possibly useful resources:

2.4.1 Individual versus collective rights

2.4.1 Individual versus collective rights

2.4.3 Politicization of human rights

Task: practicing source skills for Paper 1

Indonesia set to pass new criminal code that will ban sex outside marriage

Essay questions

Justify the claim that the debate between universal rights and cultural relativism is useful for codifying and protecting human rights.

The central problem with international human rights laws and treaties is that they are open to different interpretations. Discuss this view.

Discuss whether the politicization of human rights has hindered their universal application.