The Limitation of Human Rights Discourse in Ushering Transformative Change


  • Marissa Gell



Human Rights, Transformative Change, Individual Rights, Institutions, Social Constructivism


This paper critically examines the limitations of human rights discourse in creating transformative change. Despite emerging as a response to global human rights violations, human rights discourse has historically substituted other utopian ideologies like socialism and anti-colonialism. The paper argues that human rights discourse often fails to bring about significant change due to its utopian assertion of universality, reliance on specific social institutions for enforcement, and resistance to addressing cultural contexts and competing rights. Drawing on diverse case studies, including disability rights, children's rights, and cultural practices, the paper demonstrates how human rights discourse often falls short of achieving meaningful transformation. The analysis highlights the need to reevaluate the dominant understanding of human rights and explore alternative approaches to promoting justice and dignity for all individuals and groups.