Unit 5: Resolving Conflicting Claims for Justice: Revisiting the Individual-Collective Debate
What happens when populations disagree about issues of fairness? In this unit, we analyze global justice in terms of resolving these conflicting claims. How can we apply the theories we have discussed to situations where individuals, groups, and communities make competing claims for justice?
Most societies have conflict resolution mechanisms to mete out justice. Do parallel mechanisms exist for global justice? What do we do when individuals and communities have competing claims of justice? This unit examines two contexts: gender and sexuality (female genital mutilation, FGM, and sexual orientation), and race and ethnicity (self-determination and genocide).
Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.
5.1: Individuals, Communities, and the Pursuit of Justice
We often interpret human rights documents as applying solely, or primarily, to individuals. However, specific groups often have an interest in protecting certain rights for their entire community. In some cases, it makes sense to understand rights as communal, but they can also conflict with interpretations of individual rights. In other cases, a compelling public interest may provide grounds for undermining individual rights to protect everyone.
5.2: Gender and Sexuality: Female Genital Mutilation
This section offers a deep dive into a major issue of gender violence in some parts of the world. While female genital mutilation has cultural roots in the places where it is practiced, it is widely considered a significant violation of women's rights, both for individuals subjected to the practice and for women as a group. This practice contrasts the individual's rights with those of the group, and conflicts between two different groups over their access to rights.
5.3: Gender and Sexuality: Sexual Orientation
While human sexuality and gender expression have always varied widely and been expressed in different ways, in recent years, there has been a greater acknowledgment of this diversity, accompanied by debate over the rights of LGBTI people. While these rights remain contentious, activists are working to promote members of this community's individual and group rights.
5.4: Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity: The Identity Bridge between Individuals and Communities
Group and community rights raise questions about maintaining culture, especially for indigenous peoples whose lands were colonized, whose cultures were systematically destroyed, and whose populations were forced to assimilate to the culture of the colonizer. Today, the preservation of cultural identity is a crucial issue for indigenous peoples around the world.
5.5: Self-Determination and Sovereignty
For many indigenous peoples, sovereignty and self-governance are even more important than cultural rights. While sovereignty – the full right and power to govern oneself – is considered a human right, it has been undermined for indigenous peoples, who are often minorities in their lands of origin. The following resources break down how the United Nations has approached this issue and how indigenous peoples continue to fight to preserve or re-establish sovereignty.
The term genocide emerged during and after World War II to refer to the deliberate attempt to destroy a people, as typically defined by nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion. While we can identify other acts of genocide throughout history, the Holocaust in Europe was so large in scale and so horrifying in its brutality that it helped create this new term. This section starts with the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide but then digs into some less well-known or clearly-defined acts of genocide, and how they affect communities.
Unit 5 Current Events Exercise