The conversation surrounding cultural appropriation is not one that will be simmering down anytime soon, and for good reason. Everyone from festival-goers to reality stars to brands has been guilty of the act a time or two, and it’s fairly common these days that if an act of cultural appropriation happens, the offending party is going to hear about it on Twitter. Though some folks see the error of their ways and apologize after the fact, like Katy Perry has recently done, many think that these apologies are not enough — which is partially why the United Nations is taking note and may soon be taking steps to make cultural appropriation illegal.
However, that doesn’t mean that just anyone will be punishable by law for the act, so take note. More likely, it means that those who seek to profit from other cultures will be more closely scrutinized, most notably those in fashion and beauty industries that “borrow” ideas from indigenous cultures. i-D reports that a special committee has been asking for this since 2001, but there is finally momentum on the project. Delegates from 189 countries are currently meeting in Geneva to discuss sanctions regarding the appropriation of native cultures as part of a specialized international committee within WIPO, the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization. The aim of the meeting is to put three pieces of international law into place that will protect indigenous culture. Property regulations will be expanded by these laws to protect indigenous property in many various forms, including designs and language.
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James Anaya, Dean of Law at the University of Colorado, spoke to the special committee on Monday and stated that the UN should “obligate states to create effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures to recognize and prevent the non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions.” Specifically, during his meeting, he cited Urban Outfitters’ 2012 Navajo line, which resulted in a lawsuit from the Navajo Nation that was eventually settled out of court. If these sanctions are successful, we may see more cases like this come to fruition (though hopefully, we won’t have to). While it may take some time to enact these laws, as well as to truly define what cultural appropriation is, this is a truly worthy goal.
More on cultural appropriation:
- This Is the Haircut Celebs Accused of Cultural Appropriation Get
- Demi Lovato Responds to Cultural Appropriation Accusations Over Her Hair
- Chanel Is Accused of Cultural Appropriation for Selling Boomerang
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