Constitutions Should Not Give Special Recognition To Minority Groups
Last updated: March 2, 2017
When the term minority group is mentioned most people tend to picture a group of people who are disadvantaged because of their small numerical number in relation to a larger group but this is not always the case as the term minority group describes a category of people who have unequal access to positions of power, prestige, and wealth in a society and who tend to be targets of prejudice and discrimination.
Clearly, women are considered a minority group but in many countries of the world they constitute more than half the population of these countries but do not command the same access to power, prestige and wealth as their male compatriots. Also apartheid South Africa is also a classical example of a situation where a group with the larger numerical strength was subjected to the disadvantages of a minority group.
This debate is about not given special recognition to minority groups, firstly we are all humans and according to Thomas Jefferson- all men are created equal. It precludes this known fact would be wrong to have certain set of laws or special recognition on whatever basis governing certain people and certain set of laws for all the rest of the people, it’s such kind of recognition that has brought about elitism, cabalism, sectionalism and other form of differentiation that ultimately leads to marginalization, intolerance, squabbles and extremism. Hopefully the quote below would draw our attention to one of the numerous short-falls of special recognition.
In response to white assistant coach Yoast's favorable, easier treatment of black players on the football team: "Now I may be a mean cuss. But I'm the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that football field. The world doesn’t give a damn about how sensitive these kids are, especially the black kids. You ain't doin' these kids a favor by patronizing them. You're crippling them; you're crippling them for life." --Coach Boone in Remember the Titans (played by Denzel Washington)
We propose that constitutions should not give special recognition to minority groups but should have provisions that strengthens individual and group rights, promotes egalitarianism, deepens democracy and ensures the rule of law.
Leads to Sectionalism and Unnecessary Squabbles:
It was also ethnic/tribal differentiation that led to the Rwanda genocide of 1994 according to Wikipedia- It was the culmination of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu peoples, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959–62 and overthrown the Tutsi monarchy.”
The South Africa apartheid was an event, which was not induced by the special recognition, it was the result of series of politics aimed to abolish the rights of certain citizens. The government introduced the Separate Representation of Voters Bill [[http://bit.ly/pJJ6ij]] which would deny the “black and colored” people the right to vote. It was the courts that declared the bill invalid, which proves that the rights are better protected, when they are specifically listed within the constitution.
Afterwards, the government invaded the autonomy and corrupted the national courts in order to have their bills passed, thereby unbalancing the roles of the executive, legislative and judiciary system. Therefore this is a radical example with no relevance to the motion.
Bricks can be used to build shelters for people. Bricks can also be misused in order to bash someone in the head. That doesn't make the bricks harmful or decrease their value when properly used. Whether a corrupt government of an undemocratic country would manage to abuse SR to harm its people has no impact on this debate.
The Rwanda Genocide, is not an event which has occurred in a modern constitutional democracy, was not proven by the Aff to be a result of SR and has no impact on this debate..
Lowers Standard of Accountability
In fact, the usage of the affirmative action in one country is the result of government policies within that country. These policies aim to make reparations for past injustices done to a group (not necessarily a minority), or protect present vulnerabilities within the group. Furthermore, affirmative action policies can be implemented regardless of the presence of special recognition of minority clauses in the constitution. Based on the above, we believe the affirmative action policies are not a direct result of special recognition, ergo special recognition does not decrease the competency of minorities to compete for political influence in the community.
Finally, the application of specific recognition of minorities as defined by the negative team aims to ensure and fortify the basic rights of the minorities that the majority already has, not to award privileges. These are the freedoms to cultural, religious, and ethnical expression, not privileged access to educational institutions, state workplaces etc.
It Leads To A Truly Sectional Society
What team affirmative is trying to propose is hiding the problem without offering a solution. It is clear that these problems already exist, but ignoring them will only allow them accumulate harming tolerance and coexistence in the society on the long term. Furthermore, it will leave the minorities vulnerable and unprotected.
The proposition stands for equality among everyone in one country. But not having their rights protected certainly leads to inequality between different groups in one society. In times of crisis, political changes and instability, the first ones to suffer are minorities. The majority is always the harbinger of change, and the main focus is always on the needs of the majority. For this reason the opposition strongly stands for specific recognition of minorities in the constitution, that way their rights will be protected with the highest act in the legal hierarchy.
Finally, in the process of creating constitutional amendments, both the parliament and the public are included. Experts (legal and on the topic) prepare the amendment in special Committees, while the representatives thoroughly debates them on sessions. The public, on the other hand expresses its position through media and public discourse. We firmly believe that the solution to the problems perceived by the affirmative team lies in extensive debate on the issues in the legislative bodies and the public.
As a document binding groups, the constitution spells out the principles of co-habitation, governance and entrenches fundamental human rights. To seek to give special recognition to minority groups come with its own problem of creating sectionalism, unnecessary squabbles, lowering standard of accountability, preferential discrimination, separative tendencies. History have shown that when recognition is given to any group at all, whether majority and minority, it leads to problems highlighted. This the opposition have inadvertently brought to the fore.
We propose that to ensure that the rights of the minority groups to be preserved, every nation should entrench the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in its constitution and also insert provisions to strengthen / deepen the rule of law. This we believe will give every person whether from the majority or minority a sense of belonging thereby promoting national cohesion.
Opposition analysis and framework
Currently, constitutions consist of certain principles that guarantee the basic human rights to all citizens of the country, according to which all country policies must be adjusted. Sadly, the minorities in many countries are not recognized as such, and their rights to free cultural, religious, and ethnic expression are not given sufficient protection
Throughout this debate, team opp. will prove that the minorities possess specific ethnic, racial and religious needs that require special recognition in the constitution. All minority groups should be listed in the preamble of the constitution, in order to guarantee the general principles of the constitution apply to them as well. The nationalities, when specifically recognized in the preamble gain protection of their identity and further protection of their rights derived from the general provisions in the constitution and eventually in the laws of the country. Only when this process is wholesome, can the diverse rights of the minorities be protected.
A constitution which guarantees the rights of every citizen irrespective of race, social status, sex or religion will guarantee then everyone’s interest is catered for without resort to sub-provisions and or special recognition. If one comes from a minority group and the constitution guarantees free education for all citizens, then if I am denied education I can take my case to court.
That is why we believe that if the rule of law should be strengthened there will not be a need for a special provision for minority groups
If minority is given a special recognition and this is not respected, a government that is not committed to rule of law cannot reverse the injustice.
We believe that the special needs of every group can be taken care of by fair and just provisions which give right to all citizens to enjoy his/her fundamental human rights without infringing on the rights of others. In this way, the special needs of a group can be advocated for through the courts even if the government are not willing to set policies in that direction.
Special recognition protects and fortifies minority rights
In Bosnia and Herzegovina prior to 2010 citizens were denied the right to run for high elected office solely because their ethnic origin was not specially recognized in the constitution. Only Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks had the right to run, because they were the only ones recognized in the constitution. Finally, in December The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in the cases of Jakob Finci and Dervo Sejdic (BiH) brought a verdict binding the government of BIH to change its constitution and recognize minority groups specifically as the only way to ensure equal rights.[[http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/features/2010/01/15/feature-02]]
Roma people in Hungary were not listed in the constitution of the state, unlike the other minorities. This resulted in lesser protection of their rights, a steep decrease in their living standard, segregation and alienation from the society. The recognized minorities on the other hand, saw an increase in the living standards, acceptance from the majority and integration in the society. [[http://countrystudies.us/hungary/50.htm]] This is a clear example of the impact special recognition (and the lack of it) has on minorities.
What are our opponents still don’t understand is that all over the world, it is special recognition laws that brings about groups for whatever reasons. The following example from the black American history will help buttress our point.
“For more than 200 years before the Civil War, slavery existed in the United States. But after the war things began to get worse for blacks. The south thought they needed to do something. The Southern legislatures, former confederates, passed laws known as the black codes, after the war, which severely limited the rights of blacks and segregated them from whites.(2002 Rossville Jr. High) history website.
From these one can easily see that it is classifications like whites and blacks, Muslims and Christians, Arabs and Asians ,rich and poor, bourgeoisie and the proletariat etc. that fuel the ember of discord, segregation, exploitation and other minority disadvantages in society.
The constitution is a superior guardian of minority rights
Due to the large majority of the representative bodies required to change a clause of the constitution, and because of its highest position in the legal hierarchy of the state, the constitutions stands as a guardian of the minority rights. These rights do not refer to privileges and benefits that the representatives of the majorities would not gain, rather the most basic rights. Some of the updated amendments of the US Constitution referring to minority groups are the right to free thought, right to equality, and the right to free support.[[http://bit.ly/ruxcav]]
In 2004, the Israeli Constitution committee, for the first time in history, has undertaken the task of discussing collective rights for minorities to be listed in the constitution, such as the autonomy in education, using their own language etc.[[http://bit.ly/otsdCv]] With this they are trying to keep the promise The Israeli Declaration of Independence made “The State of Israel will maintain complete social and political equality for all its citizens, without distinction on the grounds of religion, race or sex”.
Having the minorities specially recognized in the constitutions would produce even better results, as they will finally be recognized as an existing ethnic, cultural or religious group of the country, and will be protected from government manipulation. Since the constitution is the highest legal act, any possible harm to the rights of minorities would be counter- constitutional. This protects minorities from a sudden change of politics and principles that a new government could make.
There are many international and national laws and convention against genocide and other extreme behaviours by states against their citizens especially minority groups but that has not stopped mass murder and other crimes against humanity, our argument is that laws are only a means to an end and not ends in themselves. Therefore if the spirit of the constitution is followed to the later by its practitioners it is bound to protect and promote the interest of everybody.
As already stated it is special clause/additions to the constitution like the following example "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) is the official United States policy on homosexuals serving in the military until September 20, 2011. The policy prohibits military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service.
Lack of special recognition disables the acquisition of constitutional rights
We explained the possibility of minorities not getting recognized as existing in the country, disabling the acquisition of constitutional rights. Evidence confirming our claim were provided, but were not given appropriate attention by Prop., the problem of lack of recognition was fully ignored so far.
Another example on the subject is the status of the Roma people in Romania. They are not specially recognized under the Romanian Constitution as a separate minority and are not allowed to work regardless of the determination and qualification, leading to poverty, prejudice and eventually segregation. [[http://bit.ly/oNEeRX]]
The Roma people are also facing horrible conditions in Greece as well; they are completely ignored and unprotected in this country. Many of them are not even given the citizen status even though they reside there [[http://bit.ly/n4gO2Y]], and having no other option, some are forced to change their cultural identity and declare themselves as Greeks in order to get their basic rights protected under the constitution. This clearly proves how the lack of SR in the constitution could result with the phenomenon of “modern assimilation” forcing minorities to give up on their culture and heritage in order to survive.
Concerning the prop. claim that judicial protection without SR is sufficient: We believe that the courts can’t protect the rights of a minority that is not recognized as existing. Even if this is not the case, the example of South Africa clearly shows how the constitution stood strong against sectionalist legislature, while the courts were the first one to be corrupted. Finally, it is in the minority’s best interest to have rights guaranteed by the constitution rather than going through lengthy and expensive trials to affirm each and eve
We believe that inserting the fundamental human rights provision in the constitution as declared by the United Nations will be helpful in protecting the rights of every citizen.
In the United States of America, the following provision is in the constitution and it has helped the protection of rights of the citizens which also a race within the nation has benefited from:
“…We hold these truths to be self-evident — that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”.
The subsequent amendments to the United States of America including the Bill of Rights and other Acts of Parliament have never given special recognition to any minority group, yet there has been remarkable achievements within these groups including but not limited to the election of Mr. Obama (a black man) as President.
We hereby state that lack of special recognition of minority groups in the constitution does not disable the acquisition of constitutional rights by it or any of its members.
Ideal method to protect minority rights in modern constitutional democracies
The black codes example was also unrelated to SR, as this is a law made by the government, and not a constitutional clause. It is even less relevant to the debate when juxtaposed to the definition of SR. Furthermore, the Prop. offers an example of states whose values at that period depicted black people as a factually inferior race. It is our opinion that the goal of this debate is to discuss constitutional democracies and determine whether SR is the best method to achieve equality for the minorities in these systems. Finally, we would like to point out that all modern constitutional democracies not only strive to protect basic human rights, but are also bound by the peremptory norms of the international law.
We agree with team Prop. that the constitution (SR clauses included) itself cannot stop a genocide, but it does a great job at deterring attempts to legalize the abuse of human rights and attempts to cover it up from the international community as shown in the South Africa case. Furthermore, SR clauses in the constitution grant protection from sudden changes that a new government would try to impose against the interest of a certain minority, as explained by the Opp. team in the second argument.
Affirmative actions that are too extreme will lead to super-preservation of cultures, beliefs, and practices and thereby insulate the minority. This will reduce its influence within the majority political culture and with little frustration or challenge will lead to separative tendencies. This also is a hindrance to national cohesion.
What the opposition desire, that the inclusion of minority groups in the constitution will tend to protect them in event of sudden change of government, is not a powerful tool to prevent such. Recent history have shown that international charters are the greatest tools to deal with dictators that have been brutal to minority groups and not the constitution of those nations. What every dictator or majority group engage in, before clamping down on the minority and truncating their rights, is to either suspend or amend the constitution.
Therefore, special recognition of minority groups in the constitution is not a guarantee for respecting their rights.
What the Proposition did, on the other hand, was trying to equate the term "SR" with “sectionalism” and “systematic destruction” by offering examples of past class segregation and genocides. By doing that, they completely ignored to follow our proposed definition for SR, on which they agreed to debate on, which explained SR as the process of naming strictly all minorities in the state within the preamble of the constitution, without excluding any. Therefore all of the examples about prioritizing certain groups, and discriminating others, no matter whether those groups were minorities or majorities didn’t have anything to do with the method of SR.
Furthermore, team Prop. listed examples that had nothing to do with constitutions in general, where the case was a discriminative law, or a government that corrupted the executive, legislative and judiciary system of the countries, but never did they debate on modern constitutional democracies.
Another discussed point in this debate was the presumption of the Prop. that SR would prioritize the minorities in terms of quotas and privileges that other citizens wouldn't receive. On that point, we refuted by saying that the affirmative action policies can occur regardless of the SR method, simply because these privileges are always given through the national policies and not constitutional clauses. The constitution consists only of general principles, in terms of cultural, religious, and ethnic expression, that must be then followed during the policy making process. These rights do not interfere with the rights of other citizens and therefore present no risk for disputes.
The Prop. has also argued that the SR would accentuate and emphasize the differences between the different groups of people. But hiding a problem instead of working for a solution has proven to be highly damaging to the society on the long term. Besides that, we firmly believe that the citizens of one state can coexist only when they acknowledge that they have different values, cultures and heritage.
We congratulate our friends from Nigeria for the fair debate, and thank the judges upfront for paying close attention to this debate.