Confronting Cultural Imperialism in Human Rights Discourse


An extremely well articulated article addressing the pitfalls of a lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness when tackling “human rights” issues from cultures alien to us. It calls into question the methodology of activists and abolitionists who through their cultural illiteracy may do more harm than good and end up alienating the people they hope to “save”. Brace yourself for an engaging and compelling piece.

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Written by Doreen Gaura for Africa on the Blog

Photograph taken by Beenish Ahmed for The Atlantic Photograph taken by Beenish Ahmed for The Atlantic

A few days ago, a good friend of mine brought to my attention The Atlantic’s article Confronting a Sexual Rite of Passage in Malawi penned by Beenish Ahmed and the subsequent response to it by Kim Yi Dionne published on Africa is a Country and she asked for my thoughts; particularly with regards to Dionne’s response. In short, I am inclined to agree wholly with Dionne’s position but I’d like to take it further and extend this discussion to include the human rights sector and not just limit it to international media and it’s reporting on Afrika and the cultural practices therein.

I work in the human rights sector and actively work on children’s rights so it goes without saying that I appreciate what The Atlantic was attempting to achieve with this piece…

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