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Tuesday, 22-Mar-2011 13:36 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Contractarianism

Critics of Hobbesian contractarianism have raised various
objections (Regan, 1983). One concerns the possibility
of arbitrary discrimination between people—for example,
discrimination based on race. If we imagine that a large
majority of potential contractors (say, 95%) are white, and
the remainder black, then it is not obviously irrational for
those who comprise the majority to exclude members of the
minority from negotiating the contract; perhaps the majority
might even agree to keep the minority in bondage, as
chattel slaves, the better to advance the rational self-interests
ANIMAL WELFARE AND RIGHTS

188 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOETHICS 3rd Edi t ion
of those individuals comprising the majority. That such an
arrangement would be unjust seems too obvious to need a
supporting argument. And (for Hobbesian contractarianism)
there’s the rub. For since what is just and unjust is created by
the agreements reached by the contractors, there is, within
this form of contractarianism, no theoretical grounding for
the evident injustice involved in excluding the minority
from participating. The theory, that is, not only fails to
illuminate why such discrimination is unjust, but it also
seems to deprive us of the means even to raise this objection.
If a moral theory is so fundamentally flawed when it comes
to how human beings, given their differences in skin pigmentation,
should be treated, it is unclear how it can be any
nearer the truth when it comes to how nonhuman beings,
given their species differences, should be treated.


Friday, 11-Mar-2011 12:35 Email | Share | | Bookmark
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Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 04:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Domestic violence

In any intimate relationship people may hurt each
other, but abuse occurs when one person systematically
hurts, threatens, rapes, manipulates, tries to kill, or kills the
other, and when fear replaces trust and respect as the basis of
the relationship. Physical violence, with the intent of one
spouse to cause harm to the other, is the accepted definition
of spouse abuse in all countries where spouse abuse has been
studied (Gelles and Cornell). Consistent insults, criticism,
disregard for one partner’s needs, isolation, damage to
property and pets, and withholding money, food, or other
necessities are other ways abusers try to dominate and
control the relationship. The overwhelming majority of
spousal abuse throughout the world is by men against
women (Gelles and Cornell; Levinson), suggesting the pervasive
influence of patriarchal family and social structures
on abuse.

It is hard to document the extent of domestic abuse for
several reasons. First, until recently, very few countries have
kept records of it—violence has to be reported to some
authority in order to be recorded (Gelles and Cornell).
Many countries lack the bureaucratic infrastructure to maintain
centralized records about domestic violence even if they
ABUSE, INTERPERSONAL

48 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOETHICS 3rd Edi t ion
desired to do so. Second, domestic violence incidents are
consistently underreported, because of the shame of the
abused, the desire to protect the abuser, and the failure of
many agencies where women seek help to ask for and record
many kinds of evidence of abuse. Third, the information
kept (e.g., percentage of police calls related to family disputes,
homicide statistics, number of women served by
shelters, percentage of people reporting violence in surveys)
varies widely. Research about domestic abuse against women
tends to lag behind research about child abuse. Most research
studies have analyzed family violence in a single
country, using approaches that provide no basis for crosscultural
comparison (Gelles and Cornell).

Domestic violence is an international problem. The
World Bank reports that gender-based violence accounts for
as much death and ill-health in women between the ages of
fifteen and forty-four as cancer, and more death and illhealth
than malaria and car accidents combined (Venis and
Horton). The World Health Organization (WHO) initiated
a multi-country study on women’s health and domestic
violence in 1997 in response to the recommendation of an
Expert Consultation on violence against women and the
Beijing Platform for Action. Its objectives are to obtain
reliable estimates of the prevalence of different forms of
violence against women, to document the consequences of
domestic violence on women’s reproductive health, mental
health, injuries, and general use of health services; to identify
and compare risk and protective factors for domestic violence;
and to identify strategies and services used by battered
women. Research began in seven countries in 1999 and is
expected to continue through 2002 (World Health Organization
Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic
Violence, Progress Report).

In the United States on average each year from 1992 to
1996 approximately 8 in 1,000 women and 1 in 1,000 men
age twelve or older were violently victimized by a current or
former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend (Henderson, 2000).
In 1995, 26 percent of all female murder victims were slain
by their husbands or boyfriends (FBI, 1996).
Despite the lack of statistical information and survey
data, awareness of domestic abuse is increasing. In 1993 the
United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Declaration
on the Elimination of Violence against Women and
established a Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
(U.S. Department of State). The UN designated November
25 as an International Day for the Elimination of Violence
against Women in 1999. The U.S. Department of State
highlighted the problem of rampant discrimination against
women for the first time in 1993 in its annual report on
human rights abuses. Examples cited included physical
abuse against women in all countries; “honor killings” for
alleged adultery by wives, especially in South America;
denial in many countries of political, civil, or legal rights in
voting, marriage, travel, testifying in court, inheriting and
owning property, and obtaining custody of children; forced
prostitution and the refusal to recognize marital rape as a
crime on several continents; genital mutilation in many
African countries; sexual and economic exploitation of
domestic servants in Southeast Asia; and dowry deaths
(murder of a bride when her family cannot give her husband’s
family the expected dowry) in Bangladesh and India.
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 set federal
guidelines for intervention, arrest, prosecution, and treatment
of battered women in the United States.


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