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Justice, Legality and the Rule of LawLessons from the Pitcairn Prosecutions$
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Dawn Oliver

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199568666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568666.001.0001

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‘A Million Mutinies Now’: Why Claims of Cultural Uniqueness Cannot be Used to Justify Violations of Basic Human Rights

‘A Million Mutinies Now’: Why Claims of Cultural Uniqueness Cannot be Used to Justify Violations of Basic Human Rights

Chapter:
(p.131) 6 ‘A Million Mutinies Now’: Why Claims of Cultural Uniqueness Cannot be Used to Justify Violations of Basic Human Rights
Source:
Justice, Legality and the Rule of Law
Author(s):

Colm O'Cinneide

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568666.003.006

This chapter discusses issues of cultural relativism and vulnerability raised by the Pitcairn situation. It has been argued by some commentators that the Pitcairn prosecutions unjustifiably imposed a set of cultural and legal norms upon individuals who did not accept those norms, and put at risk the continuation of the community and its culture on the island. The chapter rejects this approach. It argues that the prosecution represented a legitimate intervention in the life of the Pitcairn community, on the basis that it served to protect and vindicate the basic human rights of the women on the island, whose rights to bodily integrity had been violated by the sexual abuse to which they had been subjected. The protection of such basic rights must take priority over the desire to insulate unique cultures such as that existing on Pitcairn against the shock of change.

Keywords:   sexual abuse, prosecution, human rights, cultural relativism

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