Engaging moral agency for human rights: Outlooks from the Global South

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A sample of 1,043 participants from 3 regions in the Global South (South and Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America) responded to the Personal and Institutional Rights to Aggression and Peace Survey (PAIRTAPS). Participants’ descriptions of what they would want to do if directly exposed to 3 specific human rights violations (torturing a prisoner, bombing civilians, and beating antiwar protestors) were coded for personal agency (prosocial or nonprosocial). In addition, their arguments concerning whether countries have a right to invade other countries and torture suspects, and whether civilians have a right to protest, were coded for moral disengagement and engagement. As predicted, moral engagement was positively correlated with prosocial agency and with belief in a right to protest, and negatively correlated with nonprosocial agency and with beliefs in the acceptability of state-perpetrated invasion and torture. When scores for activists versus nonactivists were compared, activists showed more prosocial agency on behalf of human rights, lower nonprosocial agency on behalf of those rights, and more moral engagement regarding the right to protest than nonactivists.