Cultural Sensitivity and the Cultural Defense

In Interpersonal Messages, I include this discussion prompt.

The Cultural Defense
Consider these two cases (Sikora, 2001): (1) A Chinese immigrant discovers that his wife has been unfaithful. In a rage, he kills his wife. His defense was that this is the way his culture has taught him to react to infidelity. (2) An Iraqi family flees to the United States to avoid a dictator and while in the United States their daughters (ages 13 and 14) are wed to Iraqi men in their 20’s, and their parents are charged with child abuse and delinquency of a minor. Their defense was that they were simply following Iraqi tradition which permits marriages of young girls of this age. If you were on the jury listening to these two cases, how would you respond? More generally, how do you feel about “cultural defenses”? Are there some cultural defenses you’d accept and others you would not?

More recently there appeared this news item of a man who prevented a rescuer from saving his drowning daughter so that she would not be touched by a “strange” man. This is an even more dramatic example and the question I would pose as a teacher is "How accepting and sensitive must we be of cultural differences and cultural practices?" If this man were brought to trial and you were the defense attorney, how would you defend your client? If you were the prosecutor, how would you prosecute this case?


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Britt said...

Regardless of cultural 'norms' or beliefs, murder and preventing a rescue to save a life is NOT acceptable to me at all!! I can see that a point of cultural beliefs can be allowed to represent the Iraqi family with the young girls being married young, as this doesn't pose a threat to a life. As long as the girls are accepting of this and it is posing no harm, I can see how defense could argue the case.

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