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8 - Human Dignity and Relational Constitutionalism in Singapore

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2022

Jimmy Chia-Shin Hsu
Affiliation:
Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
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Summary

Human dignity is a contested concept. While “dignity as autonomy” reflects universalist liberal egalitarianism, “dignity as status”refers to an aspect of social relationship within a hierarchically ordered society. While all citizens have inherent dignity, individuals occupying certain offices or attaining certain accomplishments may enjoy special dignity, in the form of privileges and immunities. This is evident in Singapore, where the government promotes relational constitutionalism, which seeks to secure rights while sustaining durable relationships and solidarity within an ethnically and religiously diverse polity. While dignity is not an explicit constitutional value, this chapter explores how it is apprehended as a public value. The government has endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms human dignity as foundational. It considers how human dignity has been invoked before and beyond the courts, examining how the concept and cognates like honor, integrity, benevolence and virtue shape each other. Particular attention is paid to how human dignity is shaped as manifest in laws regulating political defamation and the treatment of migrant workers.

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Human Dignity in Asia
Dialogue between Law and Culture
, pp. 187 - 219
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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