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Another brilliant social awareness campaign from Amnestry International.

Watching this made me want to go to the website and actually donate my signature.


The process of producing an international ad campaign for human rights should be the same as creating any other international ad campaign; in terms of what I have discussed in my previous blog posts about understanding consumer’s culture and respecting their values. However, in doing so, problem such as ‘human rights themselves are not culturally bias’ would rise. According to the universal declaration of human rights, all human beings are born equals and freedom is not a luxury, instead it’s something that all human beings possess at the time of their birth. However, the term ‘equality’ varies depending on which culture you are from. For example, in Japanese work environment, there are a lot less female workers compare to male workers and most of the time their salary is lower than the male workers. Some cultures, especially Western culture, see this as inequality between genders but in Japan, it’s nothing unusual. Many Japanese women would want to leave the workforce as soon as they get married and therefore stay in lower payed positions (just to clarify I’m not generalising). Japanese women don’t see this as a problem because its part of their culture; male and female have their roles in society and they are happy with it. So does that mean universal declaration of human rights don’t apply to Japan? My short answer would be no. While many researchers are against the idea of universal human rights, I personally think that human rights and culture should be able to find their middle ground to coexist. There are times when universal human rights’ law should interfere with culture and there are also times that it shouldn’t. So in order for me to create ads that would work for different culture, I should first find when are these ‘times’. The example I gave above on women’s role in workforce would be the time that human rights law should not interfere with culture but the example I gave in my previous post; “It’s See No Evil, Have No Harassment in Japan” is probably one of those times that human rights law should interfere.

An interesting quote from the book:

Almqvist, J 2005, Human Rights, Culture and Rule of Law: Human Rights Law in Perspective, Hart Publishing, Great Britain

“… Culture as a quality possessed by the individual with a serious impact on her ability to enjoy the rights and freedoms as recognised in international human rights law in meaningful and effective ways” (Almqvist, J 2005, pp. 1)

1) Are Human Rights universal?
2) Can Human Rights be understood universally?

Small difference in one sentence can make such a big impact on my research project, which means I must be very careful on how I phrase my research questions. So which one is my research question? If I pick the first question, the answer would obviously be NO, because Human Rights are not the same, especially when we’re talking about counties that have very different traditions to one another. Human rights are indeed a Western concept but it is also not true to say only Western countries have human rights or humanity. There are people who say, “human rights as laid out in the international covenants ignore the traditions, the religions, and the socio-cultural patterns of what used to be called the Third World” (Tharoor, S 2000), but maybe Human Rights are supposed to be flexible. Something that is unacceptable in one country might be acceptable in another because it’s part of their culture. I think this is where the second question comes in. Can it be understood universally? It probably can but in different ways. By saying this I meant different countries with different traditions would have a different understanding of what Human Right. So probably my research question should be closer to the second question.

Thinking about Chris’s comment on my last blog post…

Human Rights is a Western concept, like modernization. Therefore, you should first question if it is fair to impose a Western ideal onto an Asian country. Making Japan adhere to Human Rights is not much different from making USA adhere to Confucian values, or forcing everyone to follow a particular religion.

He also said that if this Western concept did not enter say, Japan, there would not be as much inequality problem because it never used to be a problem, it was just part of their culture.

Then I found a very interesting article in New York Times written by Andrew Pollak titled ‘It’s See No Evil, Have No Harassment in Japan’. The article talks about different cases of sexual harassments in Japanese workplace. In Japan, unlike the United States, Australia or any other Western countries has no strict sexual harassment law. The concept, ‘sexual harassment’ was a foreign concept for Japanese until just recently. Over time, Japanese women have learnt to tolerate this kind of behaviour by man because they think that complaining would not change anything. This is exactly what Chris said in his comment; because West says there‘s a problem then it became a problem. But at the same time, we shouldn’t forget how women feel about this. One example mentioned in the article is the case of a teacher (woman) verses a principle (man).

One night in 1991, when she and the principal were returning from a late-night function that involved dinner and drinking, he suddenly unzipped his pants, grabbed her hand and rubbed it against his penis. When she resisted that and subsequent approaches, she said, the principal removed her from her classroom and gave her a minor job.” It’s a pretty awful story if you think about it. But Japanese men do not find this offensive. I’m not blaming them completely because I believe that they live in a society that tolerates this kind of behaviour where women play the “subservient roles”.

It’s true that this was never a problem in Japan until the concept ‘Human Rights’ came from the West but being one Japanese woman, I would not want to live in a place like that. How can you tolerate something you believe is wrong? Everyone has the right to be heard and should not be forced into doing something they don’t want. I think that’s the way it should be and if that concept is from West then so be it.

I’m getting a little too personal here… the more I think about it the more annoyed I get. I better take a step back and see this matter objectively. But how can I not be after reading this article!!! Anyways, I better think of something nice before I go to sleep. Night.

I should probably have written this before posting the last two entries.

Anyways, while researching Japan and their Human Rights Problems, I came across few different articles about different problems. As I mentioned earlier, the most common one is the inequality between genders, but there are also other issues such as; child abuse, human trafficking (mainly from South-East Asia for prostitution), discrimination against ethnic and minorities and questionable treatment of inmates at detention facilities.

However, just because I’m talking only about the problems, it obviously doesn’t mean that Japanese government is not respecting its citizens. Citizens of Japan are relatively free from Human Rights problems.


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