Clarifying human rights


Monday, June 02, 2014

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ALL and sundry invoke the epithet 'human rights' to justify all manner of strange demands or wishes, but folk rarely appreciate the fundamental two-fold problem concerning human rights, which lawyer and theologian Professor John Warwick Montgomery describes as: defining human rights; and, justifying human rights (Human Rights & Human Dignity, pp 63-103).

Philosophers Antony Flew and Alan Gewirth also wrestled somewhat with this two-fold problem in the Georgia Law Review 13:4, 1979. In his essay The Basis and Content of Human Rights, Gewirth says: "If, for example, we know that for one person A to have a right to something X is for A to be entitled to X and also for some other person or persons to have a correlative duty to provide X for A as his due…still this does not tell us whether or why A is entitled to X…" (p 1143) Flew in his essay What is a Right? contends on p 1122: "The first conceptual truth about rights is that they are entitlements which must possess some kind of objectivity.

The second is that they are entitlements which have to be grounded in — which is not to say deduced from — some fact or facts about their bearers…" Despite the ongoing controversy within the various philosophical schools of thought about what 'human rights' really are, it may be said minimally, if a tad simplistically, that rights are entitlements.

The traditional three generations of human rights as categorised by French jurist Karel Vasak are civil and political freedoms (1st generation); economic, social, and cultural rights (2nd generation); and the more nebulous 'solidarity or global village' rights (3rd generation) like the right to humanitarian disaster relief and the right to benefit from the 'common heritage of mankind' (Montgomery, pages 26-28).

With that backdrop, even as a thought experiment, I have grave difficulties seeing how anyone could seriously argue for any species of sex act as a human right. Worse, how anyone could argue for risky, unhealthy sexual behaviour — behaviour that is conducive to the spread of deadly diseases and the shortening of lifespans because it is potentially or inherently unhealthy — as a human right.

Under which of the traditional three generations of human rights would the claimed right to risky sexual behaviour fall? So as to avoid the fate of non-publication, that a previous article suffered, I'll simply summarise the kind of risky sexual behaviour I have in mind here as anonymous, unprotected, promiscuous anal intercourse (call such AUPAI).

Medical and epidemiological journals document such intercourse as being of serious personal and public health concern because it is so popular among male homosexuals (see in addition to Professor Bain's report the New England Journal of Medicine 309, 1983, 576-82; HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, Vol 13, No 1 (mid-year 2001), 33; International Journal of Epidemiology, 26 (1997), 657; Washington Blade, 2nd June 2000 (available at ealth/000602htm), and Sprigg and Daley, Getting it Straight (Washington, DC: Family Research Council, 2004, 75-86).

It is a flagrant dereliction of duty to neighbour and a disregard of community responsibility to engage in AUPAI.

No one can claim a right to such behaviour, because no one has any duty, to provide for AUPAI or to assist those who desire AUPAI, or even to refrain from interfering with male homosexuals having AUPAI. Christians who are serious about a ministry to homosexuals should ponder the information and recommendations on my CD Homosexuality: Clinical and Biblical Perspectives.

All members of the genus and species called homo sapiens sapiens have bona fide human rights owing to their essential being as humans. But none of us has any unquestionable right to risky and unhealthy sexual behaviour.




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