Where Talk of Rights Goes Wrong

Conference Highlights Some Faulty Ideas

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ROME, MARCH 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- An international congress on «Woman and Human Rights» cautioned, among other things, of a mentality nowadays that equates the dignity of people with that of animals.

The participants in Thursday’s meeting, organized by the Institute of Higher Studies on Woman of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, proposed the recovery of the original view of human rights, based on the dignity of man and woman.

Cristina Zucconi Galli Fonseca, president of the institute, explained that there are «deceitful anthropological proposals that go so far as to equate the dignity of people with that of animals.»

«There is a new conception of human rights which tends to convert them into subjective claims,» Zucconi said.

Attempts are being made «to transform the existence and meaning of the family,» she added. «In this way, the interests of some minorities, which do not reflect the real needs of the great majority of women of the world, are presented as the expression of an apparent feminine freedom.»

Instead, Zucconi pointed out, these conceptions of the rights of woman are «the negation of her specific identity: of her capacity to give and to take care of life.»

Maria Elosegui, professor of philosophy of law at Zaragoza University in Spain, explained how some of these currents have gained influence within meetings held at the United Nations.

«The new concept of family coined by the United Nations runs parallel with the creation of a new vocabulary, with its consequent interpretation, namely, the concept of reproductive rights,» she said.

«The concept of reproductive rights is not neutral,» Elosegui added. «Under this term, there is a desire to include ‘new rights’ that attack the declarations of the U.N. itself, so they claim the right to free abortion free of charge, the right to have a child through recourse to artificial reproductive technologies without any restrictions whatsoever, or the right to sterilization and to the choice of any contraceptive method.»

«In these discussions,» she added, «two things are confused which are simultaneously compatible, that is, that human rights are certainly universal but ownership of them is individual.»

«From this affirmation one can defend the equality of woman and her individual rights as a person with her own dignity, without the need to adopt the model of radical feminism, and without abandoning the note of universality of human rights,» Elosegui said.

Father Luis Garza, vicar general of the Legionaries of Christ, pointed out that «relativism» causes this confusion on the meaning of human rights.

«To establish that human nature is at the foundation of human rights is not something accepted by all,» said Father Garza, who holds a doctorate in canon law. «Some think that we cannot come to know the truth, because each one has his own truth,» the priest said. «According to these people, human rights are based on simple desires or personal choices.»

Father Garza warned: «Without objective moral norms, we fall into the tyranny of the majority or of the strongest, which imposes its point of view above the conscience of others.»

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