Universal Human Rights Versus Domestic Courts: Rethinking The Cultural Relativist Debate In Nepal
There has been a unipolar acceptance in the academic arena that there are some legitimate challenges to the universal application of international human rights regime. Interestingly, a huge number of scholarships on this debate have acknowledged that the foundation of universal human rights, that we know today, pledges a great deal to the western ideals and philosophies associated with the western culture and values. This has led cultural relativism as one of the most debated issues in the theories of human rights.
More disturbing is the historical record and the present world order that human rights has played a vital tool in the hands of USA and its allies in legitimizing their interventions in relatively weaker countries. This is yet more dangerous reality and challenge surrounding the human rights discourse; who should determine the violation of human rights and on what parameters is it to be measured? This leads to the main question that I attempt to analyze in this paper, shifting off from the debate of whether the human rights are universal in nature and indulging into the discourse of whether human rights should be universal.
In Nepal, moreover, with the state ratifying more human rights treaties, a huge number of organizations have been established to monitor and support the government implement those treaties. Therefore, a major scholarship has devoted to the status of implementation in Nepal of those treaties. This is merely looking at Nepalese society through the lens of United Nations and whether the Nepalese society is actually shaping as is required by the United Nations. This approach does not consider society as an equally important stakeholder in determining the rules by which they actually want to be governed.
Arguing for the need of a contextual model of understanding about human rights, I make a case study of Kumari practice in Nepal. Having the practice legally challenged in the Supreme Court, I make a reflection upon the approach taken by the Supreme Court of Nepal with regards to the validity of universal human rights in Nepal.
Covering all these aspects, the paper is divided into three parts, excluding introduction and conclusion. The first section provides a brief insight into the concept of cultural relativism and other valid notions for this paper like the idea of Asian Values and the Right of Self-Determination, while the second part provides case laws from the Supreme Court of Nepal bearing reflections of approaches taken by the honorable court with regards to the application of universal human rights in Nepal. The third section paves way for the concluding remarks by providing case study of the Kumari practice in Nepal in favor of a contextual model of understanding of human rights regime.
Keywords: Cultural Relativism, Universal Human Rights, Kumari, Nepal