This section of the document focuses on moving beyond cultural relativism

The diverse cultures that exist in the world today embody different ways of perceiving and interacting with the world. Humanity is gradually maturing beyond the notion that some ‘advanced’ and ‘civilized’ cultures carry the burden of ‘civilizing’ others. Most thoughtful people agree that cultural imperialism, or the domination of one culture by another, can no longer be condoned or enabled. Along with a growing appreciation for local knowledge, people everywhere are gaining greater understanding of the strength and richness that comes from cultural diversity, much like the genetic diversity that we treasure in the natural world and view as a common trust.

There are, however, certain beliefs or practices in every culture that are prejudicial towards, or are in some way harmful to, particular groups, especially women and girls who often occupy the most vulnerable positions in society. Cultural relativism, the view that all cultural practices and beliefs are equally valid, has gained prominence in recent times and has certain value. But when cultural relativism is elevated as the sole lens through which we view cultures, it provides no means of overcoming oppressive aspects of cultures, no means of addressing the injustices that are frequently carried out in the name of tradition, culture, and often religion, and no means of creating more just and equitable societies. Taken to the extreme, cultural relativism denies the possibility of any universal moral standards. It can also be used as an excuse for inaction to prevent injustice or, more seriously, as a defense for action that is objectively harmful to certain groups. This kind of approach has in many circumstances led to a moral void, and a paralysis of will, that has allowed for the perpetuation of injustices.



[to see more work from Kimia Kline click here]