Friday, 11 March 2011

Do you have the right to abandon your rights?

I'm presently engaged in a number of writing projects and a question has occurred to me that I have not yet answered, so this post effectively represents an attempt to answer the relevant question, namely, do you have a right to abandon your rights?

This question may seem to take an obvious "yes" answer, but I am not so sure.

Let's take some cases, just to make the problem clear:

Armien Meiwes, a German, ate his (male) lover. His lover, you must understand, VOLUNTEERED to be eaten. Meiwes was charged with manslaughter rather than murder, and given eight years. I find this case exceptionally disturbing. In fact, I've not yet encountered something more disturbing. Not even "muti murders", because at least in those cases, the victim does not assent.

Muslim women are subjected to a wide range of forms of gender discrimination. This list that follows strictly applies to those living under Shariah law, but let's use an extreme example so that my case is clearer. To list but a few of them: Muslim women must not go in public unattended by a male family member, even if it is their own toddler son; they must not show any part of their body except perhaps their hands and eyes; they may not sit or worship with men in mosque; they may not travel alone; they may not drive; they may not have male friends; they may not vote; their opinion is irrelevant; household decisions are made by men, as are national decisions. If they commit adultery, they are to be killed. They must be "circumcised" (undergo female genital mutilation), in order that they do not enjoy intercourse. They may not be literate, read, or go to school. And lastly, honour killings: if a father, brother or cousin deems a woman to have disgraced the family, usually by marrying out of her own free-will rather than within the approval of the patriarchy, she must be killed to restore the family honour. Of course, it's mainly Taliban Afghanistan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia and places like that, that have these sorts of oppressive rules. But this is my case: I believe that most women in these countries voluntarily submit to these rules and do not consider them inappropriate, unfair or wrong in any way. After all, they're decreed by the Imams, who ultimately get the ideas from the Koran.

In a certain South American country, whose name escapes me now, and the Philippines, people VOLUNTEER to be crucified at Easter. Yes, complete with nails.

So here's the question. Assuming we agree that Muslim women ought to be given more freedom, and assuming we agree that Meiwes' lover ought to have not assented to being cannibalised, and that Christians ought to not volunteer to be crucified, can we not argue that sometimes people ought to not have the right to abandon their human rights? Ought we to not enforce that people accept, adhere to, and defend, human rights, at ALL times, even in regards to themselves? We can imagine any number of other bizarre or fetishist behaviours which may constitute an abdication of one's rights. Should people be allowed to harm themselves and deliberately discard their rights? I am not so sure. What about class consciousness? Is it the duty of more "enlightened" people to "educate" or "liberate" people who discard their own rights?

What about the right to not be assaulted? Let's take that case. Some people like sadomasochism. So, a masochist or "sub" in the parlance of the culture volunteers to be beaten into submission (hence "sub"), by the dominant person (the "dom"). Assuming people do not have the right to assault each other, ought we to ban sadomasochism?

What are peoples' intuitions on this?

PS sorry for the repeated edits; I keep making errors.

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