Consenting to objectifying treatment? Human dignity and individual freedom

Fick, Sarah Johanna (2012-03)

Thesis (LLM)-- Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to determine whether an individual can and/or should be allowed to consent to objectifying treatment. This necessitated the determination of the meaning of dignity, the meaning of freedom and the relationship between dignity and freedom. It was found that both the right not to be objectified and the right to consent to objectification could be found within human dignity. This is due to the broad definition of dignity in terms of which dignity has two, sometimes contradicting, components. One component safeguards autonomy and the right to choose, which supports consent to objectification, whereas the other promotes individual self-worth by prohibiting objectifying treatment. By investigating the meaning of freedom it was found that freedom as a constitutional value, and possibly also a free-standing constitutional right, could incorporate the right to consent to objectifying treatment. Three possible solutions to this tension between human dignity and freedom were identified and critically analysed. The first was that an individual cannot and should not be allowed to consent to objectification. This solution is primarily based on the notion that dignity is supreme to freedom and that freedom should yield to communitarian dignity. Furthermore, it is contended that consent to objectification is often invalid due to economic coercion and undue influence. The second possible solution was that, although an individual might not be able to validly consent to objectifying treatment, such consent should still be allowed under certain circumstances. The example of invalid consent due to economic coercion introduced in the previous solution was examined in relation to prostitution. The contention regarding this approach is that, since our government is unable to fulfil the socio-economic needs of those who consent due to economic coercion, such consent should be allowed and strictly regulated. The third possible approach was that circumstances do exist in which individuals can give valid consent to objectification and that in these circumstances they should be allowed to do so. In this solution the grounds of the first approach is criticised by contending, for example, that dignity is not supreme to freedom, that a plural society should allow these type of choices and that consent to objectification is already allowed in some instances. The results of this study were that, although there are situations in which genuine consent is not possible, it can be given under certain circumstances. An individual who cannot give genuine consent to objectification should not be allowed to do so, unless transitional measures dictate otherwise. However, an individual who is capable of giving valid consent to objectification should be allowed to do so. Finally, regardless of whether such consent is genuine or not, strict regulation thereof is required.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie studie was om vas te stel of 'n individu kan toestem en/of toegelaat behoort te word om toe te stem tot objektiverende behandeling. Dit genoodsaak dat die betekenis van menswaardigheid en vryheid, asook verhouding tussen hierdie twee begrippe vasgestel word. Daar is bevind dat beide die reg om nie te geobjektifeer te word nie en die reg om toe te stem tot objektivering gevind kan word binne die begrip van menswaardigheid. Hierdie is te danke aan die breë definisie van menswaardigheid in terme waarvan menswaardigheid uit twee, soms weersprekende, komponente bestaan. Een komponent beskerm outonomie en die reg om te kies, wat toestemming tot objektivering ondersteun, terwyl die ander komponent individuele waarde bevorder deurdat dit objektiverende behandeling verbied. Tydens die ondersoek aangaande die betekenis van vryheid is bevind dat vryheid as 'n grondwetlike waarde, en moontlik ook 'n vrystaande grondwetlike reg, die reg om toe te stem tot objektiverende behandeling kan inkorporeer. Drie moontlike oplossings vir hierdie spanning tussen menswaardigheid en vryheid is geïdentifiseer en krities ontleed. Die eerste is dat 'n individu nie kan toestem en ook nie toegelaat behoort te word om toe te stem tot objektivering nie. Hierdie oplossing is hoofsaaklik gebaseer op die veronderstelling dat vryheid onderworpe is aan menswaardigheid en dat individuele vryheid moet toegee tot die menswaardigheid van die gemeenskap. Verder word dit beweer dat toestemming tot objektivering dikwels ongeldig is as gevolg van die ekonomiese dwang en onbehoorlike beïnvloeding. Die tweede moontlike oplossing was dat, alhoewel 'n individu nie noodwendig instaat is om geldige toestemming tot objektiverende behandeling te verskaf nie, sodanige toestemming onder sekere omstandighede steeds toegelaat behoort te word. Die voorbeeld van ongeldig toestemming as gevolg van ekonomiese dwang wat in die vorige oplossing bekendgestel is, is ondersoek aan die hand van prostitusie. Die bewering ingevolge hierdie benadering is dat, aangesien ons regering is nie in staat is om die sosio-ekonomiese behoeftes van diegene wat toestem tot objektivering as gevolg van ekonomiese dwang te vervul nie, sodanige toestemming toegelaat en streng gereguleer behoort te word. Die derde moontlike benadering is dat daar wel omstandighede bestaan waar individue geldige toestemming kan gee tot objektivering en dat hulle in hierdie omstandighede toegelaat behoort te word om dit te gee. In terme van hierdie oplossing word die gronde waarop die eerste benadering gebaseer is gekritiseer, deur byvoorbeeld te argumenteer dat menswaardigheid nie verhewe is bo vryheid nie, dat in ons huidige diverse samelewing sulke soort keuses aanvaar behoort te word en dat toestemming tot objektivering reeds in sommige geval toegelaat word. Die resultate van hierdie studie was dat, alhoewel daar omstandighede bestaan waaronder geldige toestemming nie moontlik is nie, dit wel onder sekere omstandighede gegee kan word. 'n Individu wat nie daartoe instaat is om geldige toestemming tot objektivering te gee nie, behoort nie toegelaat word om dit te doen nie, tensy oorgangsmaatreëls anders bepaal. Waar 'n individu egter in staat is om geldige toestemming tot die objektivering te gee, behoort dit toegelaat word. Ten slotte is streng regulering van toestemming tot objektiverende behandeling nodig ongeag of sodanige toestemming geldig is of nie.

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