Cultural Rights and the Role of State
Author: Mimansha Singh
II Year | Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur
One of the most neglected category of human rights is that of cultural rights. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) says that it is the right of every individual to have interaction in cultural life and share it with others. The word “everyone” means this right is available to everyone, including children.
Cultural right consists of different faces –one of them is ‘participation in cultural life.’ ‘Participation in cultural life’ means that a child can practise his/her culture, take benefit from it, enjoy the culture, access it and engage in it. No child should be deprived of his/her cultural life. This article is going to highlight the role of the State in providing access to cultural life.
Cultural Rights and UNCRC:
Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) points towards important objectives, which are:
- Recognition of rights: Children should be able to take part in cultural life and arts activities without any intervention.
- Promotion and encouragement: These cultural rights should be promoted among children. Not just promotion but equal opportunities should be encouraged to provide access to all children irrespective of their background.
Role of the State in guaranteeing Cultural Rights:
The State is the fundamental functioning unit that is responsible for ensuring access to rights. Article 31 of the UNCRC lays down that State is at the helm of providing a cultural life to children. Another obligation of the State can be found in Article 15(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. The State must ensure the right of everyone to take part in cultural life and get benefits from it. Therefore, this imposes a duty on the State to look out for the cultural rights of children citizens and provide them access to it.
Constitution and Cultural Rights:
The Indian Constitution provides various statutory provisions for the protection of the cultural rights of children. It preserves culture through Directive Principles (Part IV) and Fundamental Duties (Part IV-A). Our Constitution provides for conserving and protecting the cultural right of minorities through Articles 29 and 30.
Secondly, Article 350-A provides facilities for instructions in the mother tongue at the primary stage and imposes an obligation to not deprive any child of his/her mother tongue language.
Indian Scenario and Cultural Rights:
The Government of India provides various schemes which assist museums and cultural organizations. Through education policies too, State tries to inculcate the values of the culture in children. According to UNESCO, there are various options to engage in a culture which includes cultural behavior by parents, and education immersed with cultural values.
Cultural education refers to the education derived from cultural values. The Indian Government has adopted various cultural-educational policies for children coming from different areas to participate or get engaged in cultural life. The Central Advisory Board of Education’s committee report on the integration of culture in curriculum told that it is important to preserve home languages. Therefore, children and teachers in the initial days of primary school should be encouraged to learn and teach in their mother tongue.
Programme of Action 1992 pointed to associating education with culture for children’s development and other policies emphasized launching multilingual dictionaries. Recently, the addition of local language to the regional languages and mother tongue has been recognized under National Education Policy 2020 as a medium of instruction till class 5. Currently, the Ministry of Culture from time to time takes initiative to include children in various cultural programmes to help them participate in cultural life. Cultural Heritage Youth Leadership Programme conducts museum visits along with participation in programmes such as dance, music and theatre for children.
Inability to Access Cultural Rights:
Firstly, the Government programmes are reachable mostly to the children living in urban areas and children in school. Poor children who are not able to afford education or schools are not able to participate in cultural life. There is a famous report by the Social Mobility Commission which says that children between the ages of 10-15 involve less in activities due to poor background.
Most children living in rural areas are not getting the resources such as the internet. Lack of local authorities’ collaboration towards addressing these issues. Another problem includes Gender discrimination. Women are not able to go out and access these resources due to discrimination. Additionally, teachers at primary schools are not bilingual which leads to children facing problems.
In conclusion, it is important to understand that the State has a responsibility to protect child rights. This includes the engagement of children in culture. The important factor is that State mainly works towards providing cultural education in schools through the curriculum. This is limited to children who attend schools. But children who don’t go to schools remain excluded from accessing their cultural life. Hence, the government should also work to bring children closer to cultural programmes as well as educate parents about the same.
In this case, local authorities can be the key. Local leaders should address these problems and work to bring investment and programmes in rural areas. State and people must understand the importance of participation in cultural life.
 Janusz Symonides, Cultural rights: A Neglected Category of Human Rights, 50, INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE JOURNAL 559 (2002).
 UNITED NATIONS, https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights (last visited Feb. 7, 2021).
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 INDIA CONST. art. 350-A.
 UNESCO, https://en.unesco.org/creativity/convention (last visited Mar. 15, 2021).
 Prashant K. Nanda, What does the New Education Policy say about the Language of Instructions?, LIVE MINT (Mar. 14, 2021, 5:39 PM), https://www.livemint.com/news/india/what-does-the-new-education-policy-say-about-language-of-instructions-11596041008782.html.
 Barbara Ellen, Condemning Poor Children to a Life without Culture is a Form of Cruelty, THE GUARDIAN (Mar. 15 2021, 5:30 PM), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/20/condemning-poor-children-to-a-life-without-culture-is-a-form-of-cruelty.
 Aideen Howard, Children have a Right to Access Art and Culture, THE IRISH TIMES (Mar. 15, 2021, 7:39 PM), https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/children-have-a-right-to-access-art-and-culture-1.4024002.
Editor: Kusumita Banerjee