Cultural Relativism in our justice system only harms the victims in minorities that those who promote it seek to protect, and harms us too.

Robbie Travers – Executive Director

I’m often dismissed as right wing for my inability to tolerate the apologism for moral relativism by many on the left, but I’ve never particularly cared for this labelling intent to somehow deflate my argument. Why? Because ultimately my belief in universal human rights is neither right nor left, but simply a principal I cannot retreat upon and something that aims to protect people of all races, religions, cultures and other groups.

When I saw the judgement of Mrs Justice Pauffley, I was aghast that someone of such a learned judicial background could make such a shoddy judgement. There are always substantially flawed judgements, but this judgement really is confused at best, virulently racist at worst.

Whilst I truly believe this was conceived benevolently, such a deeply racist verdict should be seriously reconsidered. To me – the law should apply to all in equal measure. That is one of the basis that makes the UK justice system so enviable – and the judgement in question argues that “in different cultural contexts” that social services and the police should “make allowances” for those who slap and hit their children from a “foreign background.”

There are multiple problems with her verdict which means that it must be mocked and rightly so. The first being that it somehow argues our law should not apply to everyone in our nation, but only to those who don’t exist within a “different cultural context.” This is deeply problematic because it provides us with no definition of a different cultural context, and to whom does this apply? This simply creates a legal inequality in which victims of abuse from certain cultures may not be able to gain justice against their parents because of their culture, which actually only harms these groups that many who espouse moral relativism claim to protect.

Furthermore, surely this cannot apply to only certain sections of “different cultures” in our society? As it would be inherently racist to suggest that certain cultures can use this defence and others cannot, what even entails a different cultural context? Is it defined by a religious or racial background, must one be foreign to claim this or could one simply be a descendent of a different cultural context and still claim they are from a different cultural context.

Again, what actually comprises a “different cultural context”, surely one could argue that the cultural context of a resident of a housing estate is substantially different to the cultural context of a resident of a swanky flat in SW1 in London.

Without defining the cultural context, this judgement simply paves the way for people to try to use a different cultural context as an excuse, which it most certainly should not be. Our society is tolerant of many other cultures, but there are laws that protect the rights of individuals that should never be trumped by cultural context.

The court should not consider the colour of one’s skin as relevant unless the trial is a matter of racial abuse, but since these cases are often not racially prejudiced due to these trials focusing on a family home within a “cultural context,” then surely the judgement should not care for colour, but care more about the injuries the child has sustained and who is alleged to have delivered said illegal punishment.

Regardless of your views on disciplining a child, the idea that certain crimes should be tried differently dependent on the race of individual is dangerous, and hence it should be combated. Where does this justification cease to be relevant? Should those from different cultural contexts be allowed to beat their wives too? What about so-called honour killings? Bearing in mind this is a cultural practice from a different cultural context – should that be allowed too?

The idea here is worrying – that somehow every culture’s practices are of equal value in terms of their treatment and tolerance of others. Or even more worrying, cultures that are in minorities are somewhat more important than the practices of the nation’s mainstream culture. I posit that this is absolutely incorrect, we should be unashamed to say that the beating of women is unacceptable, regardless of what a certain cultural views it to be. Human rights must apply to all, and we should be clear that certain aspects of certain cultures are not only inferior to ours, but they are fundamentally wrong.

Secondly, why does a different cultural context excuse the active harming of another individual, and the police being more lenient of that? Stopping a child from suffering abuse is something our judicial systems should do regardless of the race of perpetrator or abuser, this verdict only highlights that there is far to go to ensure those in minorities receive the justice they deserve and safety from abuse.

I want police forces and social services to no longer consider if they should intervene or make special allowances on race – that is inherently racist. I want them to intervene regardless of the cultural context and stop the suffering.

We would never excuse a child in a wealthy, white suburban London home being abused for having a different cultural context, so we should most certainly not apply this excuse to other minorities. It is a racism of lowered expectations that either says that then justice a white victim of crime would receive is either not acceptable for groups from minorities because they have a different cultural context. Or it is equally racist to suggest that these groups deserve special protection from our laws, which inherently suggests that the law should not apply to all races, and is inherently racist.

Every child in our country deserves the right to be safe from abuse, regardless of their cultural background, and no special allowances should be made. Abuse is abuse – it is never justified and beating children is something our justice system should be strong enough to condemn as unacceptable, and should be even stronger to apply to all races, despite the rising clamour for leniency for those from communities that have “different cultural contexts.”


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