It is a conflicting definition of not a few perspectives. The lengthy debates in various international forums have not borne fruit in defining a universal and satisfactory concept of “minority”.
However, this circumstance has not been an obstacle to establish norms or to undertake activities to promote rights by working groups of the UN and UNESCO , mainly.
Difficulty in the concept of cultural minority
The factors that have prevented a comprehensive definition of the notion of “minority” are several. Some that we can gather are the ones indicated below:
- The diversity of situations in which minorities find themselves.
- The atomization of minorities in an entire national community and its reverse, congregated in well-defined belts.
- Nor is there the same criterion regarding the feeling of collective identity and its cohesion.
- While some minorities base their identity on a recognized history of which there is memory, others collect exclusively a fragmentary conception of their common heritage.
- A part of the minorities could have a significant level of autonomy , but of others there is no known history of autonomy or of their own leadership.
- Some minority groups require greater protection than others , because they have lived for a long time in a given country or show an iron will to preserve and develop their particular features.
Despite all those previously described and enumerated, it can be affirmed that minorities are the non-dominant groups of people who share some national, ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics, differentiated from those of the rest of the population.
Considerations about minorities
On the other hand, the same minority groups have expressed their interest in preserving their own characteristics and being accepted by the other members. That is, they do not want to be marginalized or change their essential features.
Minority groups should be differentiated from others that tend to be in similar situations for which they also need protection .
Migrant, refugee, stateless and other non-national workers are not necessarily linked by race, religion or language.
These groups would be protected against discrimination by the general provisions of international law, by international conventions in favor of migrant workers, stateless persons and refugees.
In international law, regulations distinguish and protect minority groups . Therefore, a more or less adequate definition has attempted to differentiate them from other groups of defenseless individuals.
At the international level and within the framework of agreements between States, minorities are the numerically inferior groups (although the number of members should be significant, because otherwise they would all be a minority) than the rest of the population of a State, in a situation non-dominant, whose members are citizens of the State.
It must be taken into account that they are groups that have ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural and social characteristics , different from those of the rest of the population, and express, in a tacit way, feelings of brotherhood, in order to preserve their culture , their traditions , their religion or their language.
What are the characteristics of cultural minorities
According to the concept already exposed, each of the characteristics of cultural minorities will be seen in detail :
- The presence of a different group that has constant characteristics (ethnic, religious, cultural, social and linguistic) that vary from the rest of the population: the use of the term “ethnic ” instead of “racial” is essential , because the latter refers to to physical features.
Instead, the word “ethnic” encompasses biological, cultural, and historical traits . The use of the notion “ethnic minority” includes the racial minority and the national minority.
- It must be smaller than the rest of the population . This characteristic emphasizes a quantitative issue.
In other words, the idea of a minority implies that the number of people will be less than half the national population. And in the event that several ethnic, religious or linguistic groups of the same numerical category cohabit, the idea is valid for all of them.
In addition, the number of members must be reasonably large so that it is justified (by an effort / benefit ratio) that a State that is a signatory to the agreement takes specific measures for their protection.
- Non-dominant position in relation to the rest of the population . It is interesting for international law and theories of justice, because it is the characteristic that justifies the doctrine.
The non-dominant position in relation to the rest of the population makes cultural minorities an object of discrimination or devaluation of the individuals who are part of these specific groups, defined by their religious, linguistic or ethnic coherence.
And this question is even more contentious considering that minorities do not want or cannot be assimilated by the rest of the population. The core of the problem for theories of justice is precisely the fact that minorities are “the few without power”, so it is necessary to claim and protect their rights.
In international law, the idea of minority is tied to the lack of power. Dominant minorities, by contrast, do not require protection. It is even these minorities that violate the will of the majority.
- Members of cultural minorities must be nationals of the State in which they are located . This characteristic has been one of the most weighted due to the relevance of migratory phenomena. It is an essential question since under this definition of minority, migrant individuals who do not have the nationality of the receiving country are excluded .
In the international debate, there seems to be an agreement that migrants with a common origin, language and religion, over time, acquire characteristics that coincide with the definition of minorities.
These groups could eventually become real minorities. In any case, migrants are protected by human rights and, in special cases, are beneficiaries of special measures to guarantee their identity as a group.
The relevance of immigrant groups to become minorities has been discussed in the UN Human Rights Committee .
The situation of immigrants in most cases is different from that of cultural minorities . Usually the intention of immigrants is to integrate with the majority of the inhabitants of the host country; consequently, they are not interested in remaining isolated groups.
The debate has not focused on the suitability of immigrants finally wanting to preserve their differentiated cultural traits , but on whether this situation can be part of minority rights. In terms of international treaties and agreements, immigrant workers and their families are protected by other agreements.
- Finally, the concept of cultural minority addresses the issue of the disposition of the same members of minority groups . This characteristic is fundamental in the framework of the freedom of human self-determination.
Minorities cannot be defined solely on the basis of objective criteria ; the will of its members to preserve their identity elements and feelings of group solidarity is decisive.
Minorities necessarily have a volitional character that guides them and identifies them by their origins .
In international law, minorities are protected by the “Declaration of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities”, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 47/135 of December 18 1992.
One of the most outstanding provisions of this agreement is that people will be able to exercise their individual rights and in community with the other members of their group, without any discrimination.
We have just mentioned just a few examples of these minorities. However, we insist that it is a difficult concept to understand . There are many groups that have members who are considered a minority, without being it properly said.
Examples and types of cultural minorities
Understanding the issue from social praxis, cultural minorities tend to be recognized by the traits that group them, namely: ethnic minorities, religious minorities and linguistic minorities.
To be honest, this is not an absolute rating. There are many others to catalog minorities. However, it is a sum of categories quite accepted today. For that reason, we have decided to develop this information.
The ethnic minorities , as their name implies, are united by their origins. Among its members there are distinguishable cultural and biological ties. They differ by forming well-defined groups with respect to their racial identity, customs, values and willingness to reproduce among their members.
There are many examples, but they could be mentioned: the guajiros of the Colombian-Venezuelan region, the Tuareg who stay in Spain or the Jews in Ecuador.
It must be said that they are the first minority concept to appear. Even, it tends to be very mixed with nationality . People of a certain nationality are a minority in another territory.
The religious minorities are named for their theological or cultic beliefs, different from most of the country. For example, Muslim minorities in countries where the Catholic religion is dominant, or Christians in countries like Nepal and Japan.
It must be said that it is a type of minority with more growth outside the Western world. Westerners are part of a civilization that is not very attached to religion. However, in Asia or the Middle East religion is a strong creator of identities. For this reason, groups are gestated around a religion and those who do not profess it swell a minority.
The linguistic minorities are staged precisely those groups in a language you do not know most of the people of that country is spoken.
For example, the Wayuu (which gives its name to the same community) is an indigenous language spoken by just over 100,000 people in Colombia and Venezuela.
Are there other minorities? Yes, for example, the political ones. There are cases where people are segregated for their political beliefs . This usually causes some stigma. Also, there are age-related minorities: populations where a certain age group is not abundant. It is something that usually happens with third-rate people in certain third-world countries.
The concept of minority enters especially with the idea of democracy . In this system, the majority is the one that imposes its criteria. However, a system that is egalitarian for all members of a society is also sought. This is one of the challenges of today’s world.
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.