Human Rights Day — March 21

2018-03-21 06:00

IN 1948, the United Nations defined universal human rights on the basis of humanity, freedom, justice and peace.

South Africa’s Bill of Rights is preserved in the Constitution as the cornerstone of our constitutional and representative democracy.

The articles of the Constitution can only be changed by a two thirds majority of Parliament. Human Rights Day is historically linked with the events of Sharpeville. On this day in 1960, 69 people were killed and 180 wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered to protest against the Pass Laws. Following the massacre, a number of black political movements were banned by the nationalist government, but the resistance movement continued to operate underground.

When South Africa held its first democratic election with Nelson Mandela being elected as its first democratic president, March 21 was officially proclaimed a public holiday — Human Rights Day. In terms of the Bill of Rights, everyone has a right to life, equality and human dignity.

• All persons have a right to citizenship and security; entitled to freedom of assembly, association, belief, opinion and expression, have the right to demonstrate, picket and petition; everyone has the right to be free from forced labour, servitude and slavery.

• All persons have the right to privacy and exercise political rights; a right to access to information and just administration action.

• All have a right to freedom of movement and residence; of trade, occupation and profession, in the workplace all have a right to engage in trade unions and labour movements.

• Anyone has the right to purchase property anywhere and to a basic education. And freedom of religion and belief.

• The rights of children are specified and there are specific laws to safeguard women and protect children.

Protected rights include a healthy environment, housing, health care, food, water and social security.

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