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This new book examines the relationship between culture and respect for human rights. It departs from the oft-made assumption that culture is closely linked to ideas about community. Instead, it reveals culture as a quality possessed by the individual with a serious impact on her ability to enjoy the rights and freedoms as recognised in international human rights law in meaningful and effective ways.
This understanding redirects attention towards a range of issues that have long been marginalised, but which warrant a central place in human rights research and on the international human rights agenda. Special attention is given to the circumstances induced by cultural differences between people and the laws by which they are expected to live.
The circumstances are created by differing tools, know-how and skills ('cultural equipment'), diverse settlements on matters that are ultimately indifferent from the standpoint of cosmopolitan moral law (adiaphora), and conflicts having their source in conflicting doctrines - ethical, religious and philosophical - addressing deep questions about the ultimate purpose of human life ('comprehensive doctrines').
Each of the circumstances shifts the focus with the aim of securing effective and adequate protection of individual freedom, as societies become increasingly diversified in cultural terms and issues arise of access to laws and public institutions, exemption from legal obligations for reasons of conscience, fair resolution of conflicts having their source in differing ethical, religious and philosophical outlooks, and, excuse for breach of law in case of involuntary ignorance.