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Project Topic:

CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND WOMEN’S RIGHT (A STUDY OF WIDOWHOOD RITES IN ANAMBRA STATE)

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 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1 - 5 ::   Pages: 77 ::   Attributes: Questionnaire, Data Analysis  ::   19 people found this useful

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EDUCATION UNDERGRADUATE PROJECT TOPICS, RESEARCH WORKS AND MATERIALS

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

The Universalist claims of feminism generally and of the international feminist movement in their effort particularly owes their intellectual origin among the grand narratives of Marxian philosophy on the economic subjugation of women supported the gender division of labour. Men and women are outlined differently in patriarchal and capitalist societies based on their access to or denials of productive resources primarily based in each public sphere and personal sphere. “The character of a person is evaluated not by his conduct in family morals, but by his efficiency in work, by his intellect, his will, his usefulness to the State and Society” except for women, it is all about her loyalties and “display of “good morals” in sexual and family life”. Economic subjugation of women is impossible without the bourgeois hypocrisy and its narratives of moral values; a mechanism of control life, labour and society. Patriarchal cultural norms are made to uphold structures of power that are prejudicial towards the release of women generally and materialise within the goals of women’s right as human right in particular. In recent years the difficulty of ‘Women’s Rights as Human Rights’ has increasingly gained prevalence and validity within the international community (Okin, 2014). However, the decision for Women’s Universal Human Rights seems not to avoid issues and challenges, even from the feminist movement itself. The challenge for women’s rights as human rights is the question of ‘‘how will human rights be licensed in radically completely different societies without succumbing either to homogenizing universalism or the paralysis of cultural relativism (Coomaraswami, 2009). It suggests that the diversity of cultures in numerous societies stands as a threat to the human rights movement generally. One of the areas where cultural relativism comes to the forefront is women’s human rights problems in multicultural societies. In some instances, “culture” is employed as an evidence for explanation or an excuse for gender based violence so as to justify some harmful cultural practices and/or to get mitigation in some criminal justice cases. This point raises important questions about the role of “culture” in men’s management over women, in the form of violence against women (VAW) and the degree to which a “culture” ought to be respected or tolerated in multicultural societies, when it violates women’s human rights. Some feminists argue that if a “minority culture” perpetuates gender violence, it is better to allow them to become extinct instead of protecting them under the rubric of multiculturalism -or at least promote change so that they could catch up with the equality standards held in the “majority culture”. They claim that multiculturalism could be partly blamed for the legitimating of gender based violence. Others draw attention to the fact that no “culture” is exempt from gender based violence, though there might be changes in the form of violence against women in different “cultures”, and suggest that more thorough analyses should be done in order to understand the relation between cultural relativism and women’s right. In the context of these, the concept of cultural relativism is useful in discussing gender violence or widowhood rites in multicultural societies, particularly, in the cultural defence cases. It will explain women’s right discussions in multicultural societies. Looking at the relationship between “multiculturalism” and “cultural relativism” and analyzing the way that cultural relativism approaches to “culture” and then suggests a more plausible account of culture. Lastly, it will criticize the cultural defence cases and discusses the challenges that cultural relativism poses in women’s right discussions. It concludes that although cultural relativism helps to understand “the contextual nature of any principles of justice”, it deters normative judgement about harmful cultural practises; it reduces culture to its partial representations and therefore obstructs important factors that contribute violence against women; it undermines women’s agency by constituting them as victims of “cultures” and it might articulate with “nationalist” and “racist” discourses by freezing group differences. In accordance with this, this research will also provide further thoughts on Nigeria by examining the implications of the framing “widow rites” as a matter of “tradition” or “custom” (töre).

1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Debates on how to reconcile the conflict between human rights and harmful cultural practices have been evolving in the world for the last two decades (Sossou, 2015, De Gaay Fortman, 2011). In the face of the massive support for numerous international human right instruments that seek to combat all forms of discrimination and harmful traditional practices against women, practices such as widowhood rites are still persisting. By implication, cultural values tend to undermine the prospect of women’s rights. In the case of widowhood rites, these are mainly privately perpetrated on the ground of communal membership. Igbo membership revolves around maintenance of cultural and religious traditions. Across these wide ranging traditions, widows are subjected to patriarchal customary and religious laws and face problem of inheritance rights (Merry, 2012, Iwobi, 2008, Ewelukwa 2015). The underlying motivations for widowhood rites are linked to cultural belief and local cosmology that the widow is a prime suspect of her spouse’s death and that the widow would therefore need to prove her innocence to the family through these rituals. Another widowhood practice is that of levirate marriage where a sibling of the deceased husband re-marries the widow in order to maintain paternity for the widow’s children. But educational attainment, children’s approval, financial independence and religious beliefs of widows in Nigeria determine the acceptance of levirate marriage. Still, a number of widows condone these practices and seem complacent because any attempt of non-compliance can perhaps claim their lives or that of their children (UN, 2011). Even in the public sphere, institutions and community norms condone the practices. This makes the rites hardly debated publicly. The travails of widows in Igbo land include a long period of incarceration during mourning, an obligatory poor standard of hygiene, deprivation of the husband's property and maltreatment by his relatives, enforcement of persistent wailing and sitting beside the husband's corpse. These directly have negative psychological, financial, sexual and social impacts on widows. Nowadays, widowhood rites often make women to be dethroned, defaced, disentangled, defiled, denied, deprived, dispossessed and disinherited (Iwobi, 2008; Nwadinobi, 2011). The enormous discrimination and humiliating treatments that widows frequently encounter, in varying degrees of hardships, is a threat to the rights of women (widows) as recognized in international human rights conventions and treaties and in national legislation as well. Tensions existing between cultural practices and universal respect for women’s rights can, and must, be managed or proactively resolved (Ado, 2010). In applying and realizing these human rights norms in a particular economic, historical, social, political and cultural setting, context remains important (Arts, 2010, De Gaay Fortman, 2011). These tensions, between Universalist and relativist positions, have been qualified as a ‘trench war’ by Viane and Brems (as referred to in Arts, 2010). In the extreme, they resulted in a situation in which certain groups of women, specifically widows, are not adequately protected against harmful widowhood practices and have not been given the attention they deserve, as is the case across Nigeria. Similarly, Nigeria as a multicultural society is characterised by a plural legal system to preserve the traditional values of her diverse ethnic communities. The frontiers of the legal systems (Common Law, Statutory Law, Customary Law and Islamic Law) are multi-faceted and the customary law itself is not integrated. Generally, the mystifying plurality of cultures in Nigeria indicates that there is a wide variety of widowhood practices. There are significant variances between the different sub-cultures that are found within the Igbo ethnic group. These are possible because of various influences ranging from social contacts with their neighbours as well as Eastern influence or other reasons. This multiplicity complicates the applicability of the legal systems and widows are the casualty of these complexities. Nigeria’s legal system is gradually willing to confront these customary laws and traditions with a view to curtailing the operation and adverse effect though; reconciling them with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution is challenging (Iwobi, 2008) Apparently, looking at widowhood practices in Igbo land, the women involved do not have much choice if they are to live in peace with the communities. Otherwise they will be socially labelled. The traditional structure, male dominance mentality and the ethnic groups are problems confronting widows. Many of them rely on the work of their hands and live alone (and in isolation). Access to their deceased spouse’s land properties and other assets are practically an illusion and they experience cat-and-dog’s dealings with their in-laws. Worse still, the complex interaction of the pluralistic legal structure in Nigeria, which simultaneously functions alongside with cultural traditions, gender and religion, affects the status of women particularly in the widowhood period (Bazar, 2009) Efforts to strike a balance between rights of widows and customary law have been manipulated by fragmentation and discrimination. The federal level has been challenged to initiate constitutional amendments. Besides, limited law-making measures were taken by Igbo state governments in an effort to address the discriminatory treatments experienced by widows. In view of this, this research demonstrates how widowhood practices have infringed on the rights of Igbo women and why efforts to discontinue such practices have proven futile. This is purposely examined to ascertain how widows in Eastern Nigeria can be protected from harmful traditional rituals.

1.3. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The major aim of the study is to evaluate cultural relativism and women’s right. Other specific objectives are as follows;

  1. To examine the nature of cultural relativism in Nigeria.
  2. To examine how widowhood practices infringe on the rights of women in Nigeria.
  3. To examine the influence of cultural relativism on women’s right in Nigeria.
  4. To examine cultural relativism as an obstacle to the protection of women's human rights.
  5. To examine the relationship between cultural relativism and women’s right in Nigeria.
  6. To make recommendations for legislation and policy interventions to improve the status of the widows in Nigeria.

1.4. RESEARCH QUESTIONS

  1. How is the nature of cultural relativism?
  2. How does widowhood practices infringe on the rights of women in Nigeria?
  3. How does cultural relativism influence women’s right in Nigeria?
  4. Is cultural relativism an obstacle to the protection of women's human rights?
  5. What is the relationship between cultural relativism and women’s right in Nigeria?
  6. What are the recommendations for legislation and policy interventions to improve the status of the widows in Nigeria?

1.5. RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

Hypothesis 1

H0: There is no influence of cultural relativism on women’s right in Nigeria.

H1: There is a significant influence of cultural relativism on women’s right in Nigeria.

Hypothesis 2

H0: There is no significant relationship between cultural relativism and women’s right in Nigeria.

H1: There is a significant relationship between cultural relativism and women’s right in Nigeria.

1.6. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The paper, is very important in many ways, it will help the Nigerian government to identify and understand that gender violence is a serious problem affecting our nation in third world. The main significance of this study is contributing to the academic gap and to give an insight to the situation of widows in Anambra community. Furthermore, by discussing the case of the violations or protections of women’s rights this study sheds some light to scholars, policy makers and human rights advocates as well as those who are interested in further studying the similar case and advocating for the protection of widow’s rights in Anambra. The study may also contribute to the rights practitioners by pinpointing at the violations of women’s rights among the Igbos. Last but not least it may contribute to the existing body of knowledge and reveal the way for other researchers to conduct further studies on the issues of the protection of widow’s rights and other women rights.

1.7. SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The study is restricted to cultural relativism and women’s right, a study of widowhood rites in Anambra state.

1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY

Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS

Culture: Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. It can also be defined as shared patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. 

Cultural Relativism: Is the idea that a person's beliefs, values, and practices should be understood based on that person's own culture, rather than be judged against the criteria of another.

Widowhood: Widowhood is the state of being a widow or widower, or the period of time during which someone is a widow or widower

Women’s Right: Women's rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls worldwide, and formed the basis for the women's rights movement in the nineteenth century and feminist movement during the 20th century

Human Right: Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law

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