The Women's International Conference in1995 in Beijing proposed the idea that women's rights be considered within the category of general human rights. Our concepts about human rights are rooted in the liberal traditions of a relatively homogeneous Western culture. In recent years, however, this culture has become increasingly heterogeneous. As a result of this greater diversity of beliefs and subcultures, some interesting challenges to these liberal traditions have arisen. An example of where such challenge elicits particularly divergent views is the issue of female genital mutilation, where the social and cultural rights of various subgroups appear to conflict with concepts concerning the human rights of an individual. Thus, this issue challenges a number of beliefs, including aspects of multiculturalism and feminism. In this article, I first examine the problem of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) within the context of multiculturalism, with particular emphasis upon feminism of women of color. Additionally, two opposing positions within the liberal multicultural approach—that of Kymlicka versus that of Kukathas—are then examined critically, and several rapprochements are offered. A final section focuses upon the implications of these issues for feminist women of color.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Afkhami, M., & Friedl, E. (Eds.) (1997).Introduction. In Muslim women and the politics of participation: Implementing the Beijing platform. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Akulogu, J. (2000). Amnesty International Board Member interviewed for Ha'Aretz newspaper in Hebrew, February 4.
Anthias F., & Yuval-Davis, N. (1992). Racialized boundaries: Race, nation, gender, colour and class and the anti-racist struggle. London: Routledge.
Berkovitch, N., & Bradley, K. (1999). The globalization of women's status: Consensus/dissensus in the world polity. Sociological Perspectives, 42(3), 481–498.
Bulbeck, C. (1998). Re-orienting Western Feminisms: women's diversity in a postcolonial world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–17.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. New York, Routledge.
Grillo, R. D. (1998). Pluralism and the politics of difference. New York: Oxford University Press.
Grillo, R. D. (1999). Pluralism and the politics of difference: State, culture, and ethnicity in comparative perspective. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gutmann, A. (1993). The challenge of multiculturalism in political ethic. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 22(3), 171–206.
Hayter, K. (1984). Female circumcision-Is there a legal solution? Journal of Social Welfare Law, 6, 323–333.
Howard, R. (1995). Human rights and the search for community. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Jaggar, A. (1998). Globalizing feminist ethics. Hypathia, 13(2).
Kukathas, C. (1986-87). Liberalism and its critics. Humane Studies Review, Winter, pp. 1-110.
Kukathas, C. (1996). Liberalism, communitarianism and political community. Social Philosophy and policy, 13(1), 80–105.
Kukathas, C. (1997). Cultural toleration. In W. Kymlicka, & I. Shapiro (Eds.), Ethnicity and group rights, (pp. 60–104). New York: New York University Press.
Kukathas, C. (1992). Are there any cultural rights? Political Theory, 20(1), 105–139.
Kymlicka, W. (1991). Liberalism, community and culture. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kymlicka, W. (1995). Multicultural citizenship: A liberal theory of minority rights. In W. Kymlicka (Ed.), The rights of minority cultures. New York: Oxford University Press.
Levy, J. T. (1997). Classifying cultural rights. In I. Shapiro & W. Kymlicka (Eds.), Ethnicity and Group Rights.New York: New York University Press.
Margalit, A., & Halbertal, M. (1994). Liberalism and the right to culture. Social Research, 61(3), 491–510.
Miller, D. (1994). Citizenship and pluralism. Paper presented at The Israeli Forum for Legal and Political Philosophy, Jerusalem, Israel.
Okin, S. M. (1998, June) Thoughts on feminism and multiculturalism. Politika 1, 9–26. (in Hebrew)
Okin, S. M. (1998, July). Feminism and multiculturalism: Some tensions. Ethics, 108, 661–684.
Panniker, K. N. (1996). Is the notion of human rights a western concept? In H. Steiner & P. Alston (Eds.), International human rights in context. New York: Oxford University Press.
Parekh, B. (1999). Balancing unity and diversity. In D. Avnon & A. de-Shalit (Eds.), Liberalism and its practice.London: Routledge Press.
Poulter, S. (1986). English criminal law and ethnic minority customs. London: Butterworths.
Steiner, H. J., & Alston, P. (1996). International human rights in context; Law, politics, morals. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Tamir, Y. (1998). Two notions of multiculturalism, Politicka, 79–93. (in Hebrew)
Taylor, C. (1994). Multiculturalism. In A. Gutmann (Ed.), Multiculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Taylor, C. (1985). Language and human nature. In C. Taylor (Ed.), Human agency and language philosophical papers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Walzer, M. (1988). The company of critics: Social criticism and political commitment in the twentieth century. London: Basic Books.
About this article
Cite this article
Kalev, H.D. Cultural Rights or Human Rights: The Case of Female Genital Mutilation. Sex Roles 51, 339–348 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:SERS.0000046617.71083.a6
- female genital mutilation
- human rights
- women rights