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Human Rights Month! Here is a quick guide to your rights

Human Rights Month! Here is a quick guide to your rights

Human Rights Day – In March every year, we are reminded just how privileged we are to have a Bill of Rights written in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa. 

With its volatile human rights legacy, South Africa signalled an intent to bring about democratic change for all with the adoption of the Bill of Rights, which essentially stands for the values of human dignity, equality, and freedom. 

From the ashes -Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day on 21 March is historically linked to the Sharpeville massacre of 21 March 1960. Sixty-nine ordinary people were killed, and 180 people were wounded when police fired live rounds at a group of peaceful protesters, mostly women, who had gathered to protest against the Pass Laws. The laws effectively denied black people any human rights, such as freedom of movement, freedom of association, and dignity. They had to carry a Pass Book to go to work or go anywhere in South Africa. They herded them into living life in the locations where curfew was in force.  

Rising out of colonialism, slavery, oppression, racism, sexism and many other forms of human violations, the Bill of Rights sets out to right the wrongs of the past and to protect people from “violation, irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whether they are foreign nationals or not – human rights apply to everyone, equally,” says the South African Government.

South Africans are constantly urged to remain “vigilant and report abuse and cruelty” to the SA Human Rights Commission and the authorities. Today those violations include untold cruelties such as child labour, forced labour, violence against women, children, the aged and other vulnerable people, and human trafficking. 

Know your human rights

First of all, remember you have the right to life, equality and human dignity, even when everywhere in the media and social media this may not be the case for most of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country. 

The Bill of Rights guarantees you the right to:

  • Citizenship and security where you have the right to shake off the shackles of forced labour, servitude and slavery. You are entitled to freedom of assembly, association, belief, opinion and expression. And if these are suppressed in any way, you may use your voice by protesting whether to demonstrate, picket or petition.  
  • Privacy and to exercise political rights, and with these come the right to access information and just administrative action. And if you get arrested, detained and accused, access to a fair hearing in the courts is your right. 
  • Freedom of movement, residence and trade, occupation and profession. People can buy property anywhere and be assured of primary education for all. While in the workplace, you may be part of trade unions and labour movements. 
  • Language, culture and communities and freedom of religion and beliefs. While there are specific laws to safeguard women and protect children, the Bill of Rights also highlights the rights of people who belong to cultural, religious or linguistic communities. 
  • Healthy environment, housing, healthcare, food and water security and social security. 

 

What now?

With the change from apartheid to democracy in 1994, we won the “right to have rights”, but the realisation of the ideals enshrined in the Constitution and the ground-breaking Bill of Rights has yet to arrive in the locations, the squatter camps, rural areas and semi-urban townships that form a ring around all South African cities and towns. 

In its survey, The South African Reconciliation Barometer, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation suggests that this month there should be a reflection on our hard-won freedoms. Still, we shouldn’t sweep the realities under the carpet – realities such as socio-economic rights in a society where violent crime is rampant and poverty and poor services such as the lack of clean water, nutritious food, essential goods and services remain. 

The report notes that 27 years with human rights as our constitutional heart, children can still not access proper toilets.

Against all the mounting evidence, perhaps this Human Rights Month we should all go back to the beginning and recognise that we do have the Bill of Rights and that is a strong foundation on which to build change. 

iER

Violence and crime impede our right to a safe country. If you feel that you are in danger, having the iER app on your phone can be a comfort to you. You will have access to all emergency services at the click of a button. 

The iER app is a free emergency application you can download on any smart device. It gives the user peace of mind by offering a no-cost solution for emergencies. The App is a

panic button. You can use it in various situations to ensure that the

proper response team gets to an emergency or crime scene. It is a one-click solution available to everyone. 

There is no membership fee. Data or a Wi-Fi connection is required. 

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