Balancing Rights

In a blog post about pre-marital HIV testing, Sakshi Juneja writes,

“The question of pre-marital HIV testing has been debated in media and on blogs. We are still searching for a balance between:
A) A nation’s effort in curbing a dreaded disease
B) Freeing the society of its prejudices/taboos
C) An individual’s right to protect what is ultimately a private and confidential matter regarding his/her health”

Who is the “we” that is searching for a balance? Presumably it is the voting public. How is the “balance” going to be decided. By majority vote1. What happens to the rights of the dissenting minority?2 They get “balanced away”.

There can be no standard by which to balance any individual’s rights against any “desirable social outcomes”. No social outcome can be desirable if it comes at the cost of deliberately violating someones rights. The sole purpose of proper political action is to secure everyone’s rights. Unless we3 realize this, we will reach a stage where there will be no rights left to balance against anything.

Notes
1) By majority vote – in the theory of democracy; by whoever happens to be in a position of power – in actual practice
2) This is not about the privacy of an HIV+ person in particular. The issue of pre-marital HIV testing raises several legitimate questions which I will try to deal with in another post.
3) We here is everyone who cares about rights.

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2 Responses

  1. Being an American, I’m not well versed in the particular issue you’re addressing, but based on the linked blog post, I surmise that the government of India is considering mandating pre-marital HIV testing?

    Regardless, you are absolutely right in questioning the need to balance anything, when the issue revolves around individual rights.

    Your post was short, sweet, and to the point. But I wonder if you could elaborate on your statement that “The sole purpose of proper political action is to secure everyone’s rights.”

    Is the issue political action, or the proper role of government in the first place? The quote from the blog mentioned a “nation’s effort” in curbing disease, and presumably the same nation’s effort in “freeing the society” of taboos. Is this a proper function of government? If not, why not?

  2. Thanks for your comment. I am not a very close follower of politics, but I am not aware of any proposed bill to mandate testing.

    Anyway, coming to your main point. I did intend to talk of political action and not the role of government for a couple of reasons.
    1) Political action is a wider term that includes the functioning of the government and perhaps more importantly, maintaining a proper government.
    2) The Indian constitution is so bad that a lot of properly directed political action will be required before we can even hope of a proper government.

    Curbing disease or freeing the society of taboos or achieving any desirable social outcome is not the proper purpose of any political action. I have touched upon some of the practical reasons in this post. I will try to touch upon the moral aspects in a future post.

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