Cultures and Human Rights
To hear that all cultures are "morally equal" and that all deserve the same 'respect' is something that really nauseates me. Even more than being false, it is harmful. All cultures are not equal, because not all cultures treat human beings with the same respect and dignity without discrimination; not all cultures provide its individuals with universal fundamental human rights. A culture that violates human rights is inferior to a culture that protects human rights, and I am not going to offer my unconditional respect for any culture that does the former. Of course, the tricky part begins when people begin to claim that human rights are also culturally relevant. Something like: "Your culture has your own version of human rights, and my culture has my own version of human rights, so you can't judge my culture based on your version."
First of all, such a conception of human rights goes against the very idea of universal human rights, that there is a set of rights that ALL humans are entitled to irrespective of which society they are born into. To believe in culture-specific human rights is to negate the idea of universal human rights. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that to believe in culture-specific human rights is not to believe in human rights at all. It sounds absurd to believe that women have a right to property if they are born in country A but do not have the right if they are born in country B. Of course, women in countries A and B do have different rights in practice, but it is entirely another matter to believe that this is how it should be. A person in country A cannot possibly believe that to give women property-rights is as equally morally valid as not giving women property-rights. Either ALL women born anywhere in the world have property-rights or ALL women born anywhere in the world do not have property-rights. It cannot be both. The various human rights that every culture endorses, it endorses in a manner as if those human rights were universal. No culture advocates human rights while advocating that these rights only exist within that particular culture and have no applicability outside it. To say so would be to undermine the validity of those human rights.
Secondly, true, there are different conceptions of human rights that vary cross-culturally, but it doesn't mean that they are all on equal footing. Some conceptions of human rights are better than other conceptions. A human rights charter that doesn't discriminate against women at all is better than a human rights charter that only partially discriminates against women. And why is one charter better? Because it is more in accord with human respect and dignity. Because it discriminates less. So yes, I do believe that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by United Nations is far superior to any other declaration of human rights that exists as yet (though a better version might come up in the future), most notably, The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, which I believe is a joke.
All cultures that fall short of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, my respect for them falls short in equal measure.
There, I have said it in unequivocal terms. Political correctness be damned.