Touch of Tide in your tea?

Posted: September 3, 2012 in pOstEd WeEkLY

“Intervention is also problematic because we are not necessarily coming to the rescue of pure innocence.” (317)

The overall concepts gathered in Michael Ignatieff’s article, Human Rights as Politics, universal human rights are broadly misrepresented and either successful or non-successful in a global scope. Most examples were of countries suffering from war and economic crisis; having rights violated by their own government; and of the impact encompassing Juridical, Advocacy, and Enforcement Revolution.

In the section, Human Rights & Self Determinism, Ignatieff states that “the rights and responsibilities implied in the discourse of human rights are universal, yet resources—of time and money—are finite” (298). Is the issue of time and money? Is that why children in the Philippines believe that by adding a little bit of Tide (laundry detergent) to their water they can avoid contracting gonorrhea while earning money by prostituting? Or perhaps the issue is that there is an enormous lack in resources, which may be a lack in money, but is more so a lack in sexual health.

Related: The threat of HIV and other sexually – related diseases  among youth in the Philippines.   

Ignatieff points out that the US States Department’s annual report of 1999 stated “human rights and democracy—along with “money and the Internet”—as one of the three Universal languages of globalization” (290). Clearly, money and the Internet are not a language that all individuals can speak. There is a disconnect in the concept of time and money and what the USSD states to be a third universal language if resources are not attainable by those in the Philippines, especially children with limited rights and education.

The issue at hand is not solely of a lack in resources, it is an over-influx of sex-tourism. While Pilipino state law and officials are making an attempt (at least for public appearance) to crack down on prostitution and exploitation of children, the threat is mainly familial, cultural, and economic.

“Many child sex workers – aged mostly from 11 to 15-year-olds – interviewed for a study by the Institute for the Protection of Children said relatives introduced them to prostitution, while others said they were recruited by friends.”

In the section, an Intervention as a Reward for Violence, Ignatieff holds a very broad and dynamic concept of there being three main failures of the assumptions or enforcements in regards to human rights being applied.

First, that “the crisis of human rights” is failing to be what he refers to as “consistent—to apply human rights criteria to the strong as well as to the weak.

Next, that there is a “failure to reconcile individual human rights with our commitment to self-determination and state-sovereignty.”

Lastly, that we have an “inability, once we intervene on human rights grounds, to successfully create the legitimate institutions that alone are the best guarantee of human rights protection.”

The Philippine Commission on Women states that “our existing law, specifically Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) penalizes and defines “prostitutes” as “WOMEN who, for money or profit, habitually indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct.” Republic Act No. 10158 (March 27, 2012) which amended RPC Article 202” (

In a state where the workforce is nearly equivalent to the industry of sexual tourism and prostitution (both child and adult) on reform of law and human rights could result in resolution of such violations among women, men and children forced into selling their most precious resource: themselves.


Ignatieff, Michael. 2000 “Human Rights as Politics” The Tanner Lectures in Human Values. Princeton. pp 287-319


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