Universal Human Dignity: Some Reflections in the Asian Context

Man Yee Karen Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The idea of “human dignity” is accorded a prominent status in domestic constitutions and international human rights law. Its symbolism as a universal ground of human rights sits awkwardly with the absence of a precise definition. The concept has evolved over history and has been interpreted in various ways by people holding different worldviews. The elusive nature of human dignity creates challenges when it is evaluated across cultures. Despite its common association with the concept of liberal democracy, the idea of human worthiness is not necessarily absent in Asian societies, many of which function under alternative political systems.A cross-cultural perspective requires putting aside ethnocentrism and exploring the convergence of views from different belief systems. Examples from Confucianism and Islam may provide insights on how human dignity is understood and realized in various Asian contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283–313
JournalAsian Journal of Comparative Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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