Phenotype-based discrimination and exploitation
#1
The principle that anatomical differences should not serve as grounds for obstructing any person's exercise of civil liberties (so long as there is no harm directly resulting from this exercise, to the individuals concerned or to others) is well-expounded in the context of the rights of persons with disabilities (PWD), such as in this interview featuring Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor.

The principle above, which might ordinarily be viewed as something that goes without saying, seems to be egregiously violated with impunity in the case of individuals with certain kinds of anatomical differences called atavistic phenotypes. A case study in this regard is mentioned in passing in the following lecture on Human Evolution and Disease by Dr. K Thangaraj at Nirmukta Thinkfest 2013. (watch from around 10m26s)





Though not the central theme of the lecture itself, the case mentioned therein is a fit cause for what Avital Ronnel calls 'Ethical Anxiety'. In the absence of such anxiety, and the prevalence of a stolid certainty in attitudes about individuals regarding 'what they are' and 'what their place is', oppressive behaviors are rendered likelier.

Here are some ethical questions raised by the above case at different levels : of the concerned parties (families of individuals with the said phenotype, owners of entertainment establishments, organizations conducting scientific research), the State and civil society at large.

-What are some precedents of activism or legislation aimed at preventing the sort of objectification that occurs when individuals with what are called atavistic phenotypes are featured as exhibits?
-How can a culture be established where obstruction of a scientific investigation, by employers and other authorities (so long as it doesn't constitute demonstrable harm to the participants or the environment) is viewed to be unacceptable like obstructing a criminal investigation?
-Does being made the subject of a scientific investigation itself constitute a kind of objectification in a way, and what are some notable precedents of safeguards adopted by scientific organizations to protect sections of society like indigenous peoples who are often the subjects of investigation?
-What is the nature of consent in such cases and who is authorized to provide it, and are models provided in cases where, say, the research subject is a minor or in any other state that informed consent?
-When consent or otherwise is hard to establish, how applicable would existing laws against human trafficking, illegal confinement and bonded labor be when ordinary employment benefits are not accorded to such individuals?
- Would it take some ingenuity in legislative interpretation (i.e. by considering 'phenotype' as implicitly included in the list of forbidden discriminations based on 'caste,creed,colour...' ) or a more sweeping conception of the rights of sentient beings in order to bring better 'human rights coverage' to such exploited individuals?
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