HUMAN DIGNITY IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE

Botha, Henk (2009)

Article

INTRODUCTION: “Human dignity” has become an integral part of the vocabulary of comparative constitutionalism. Not only is the right to dignity proclaimed in national constitutions and international human rights instruments, but it is asserted with increasing frequency that dignity is the basis of all human rights and should be used as a guide to their interpretation. Dignity is invoked as a supreme value, an interpretive Leitmotiv, a basis for the limitation of rights and freedoms, and a guide to the principled resolution of constitutional value conflicts. In the view of some authors, dignity provides judicial review with a secure and legitimate basis. Consider, for instance, the claim made by a German law professor that dignity is the only absolute value in a world of relative values – a fixed star which provides orientation amidst life’s uncertainties. Consider, too, the contention of a judge of South Africa’s Constitutional Court that dignity “is an indispensable constituent in neutrally principled and correct adjudication on issues of unfair discrimination”.

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