A one-day Seminar on ‘Framing multicultural issues in terms of human rights: solution or problem?’ will be held at the Utrecht University Law School on Monday 14 November 2011:
Building further on our special issue of the Utrecht Law Review of June 2010 called ‘Human rights law as a site of struggle over multicultural conflicts; Comparative and multidisciplinary perspectives’, we at Legal Theory in Utrecht felt the need to address the question which role human rights play in framing specific multicultural issues. Take for example the refusal to shake hands with the other sex. This ‘problem’ can easily be resolved, as often happens, in an informal and pragmatic manner. It can however also be framed in terms of ‘reasonable behaviour of an employee’, but just as well, it seems, in terms of a ‘horizontal working of human rights’: ‘freedom of speech/expression’ or ‘freedom of religion’ vs ‘non discrimination’ and ‘gender equality’.
We want to investigate whether it makes a difference (for whom, in what sense?) to frame an issue one way or the other, and what the role is that the (human rights) law itself plays. Do human rights, especially the ready availability of for example ‘freedom of religion’ these days, steer towards and thus influence certain solutions? If so, what are the consequences in terms of ‘backfire’ for the human rights system and for social relations (both on micro and macro level)? What are the gains, and for whom? And not the least interesting: what does a comparison between countries teach us? These questions partly need to be addressed empirically, like whether framing multicultural issues in terms of human rights is a recent phenomenon and whether shifts in the use of specific human rights can be discerned.