Human Rights Day: What are your basic rights and where can you go when they are infringed upon?

2019-03-21 14:00
Man waving a South Africa flag (iStock)

Man waving a South Africa flag (iStock)

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On Human Rights Day we reflect on the rights afforded to all South Africans as enshrined and protected in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa's Bill of Rights, 25 years into our democracy.

What are your human rights?

1. Life

Everyone is afforded the human right to life. This right is protected in its entirety.

2. Education  

Everyone is afforded the right to an education, this includes the right to receive an education in the language of their choice.

3. Cultural, religious and linguistic communities

All South Africans may not be denied their right to belong to a cultural, religious or linguistic community. This includes the right to enjoy and practice their culture and religion in their language.

This right, however, must be practiced within the provisions of the Bill of Rights.

4. Language and culture

Everyone is afforded the right to use their language and participate in the cultural life of their choice. This right, however, must be enjoyed in a manner which remains consistent with the Bill of Rights.

5. Environment

Everyone is afforded the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.

This right includes the protection of the environment for the present and the future.

6. Human dignity

Everyone is afforded the right to have their inherent dignity respected and protected.

7. Freedom of expression

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression which includes the freedom of the press and media, the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas, the freedom of artistic creativity, academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

This right cannot, however, be used in the propaganda for war, incitement or advocacy for hatred.

8. Equality

Everyone is considered equal before the law, which includes the right to enjoy all rights and freedoms.

No one or the state may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone based on their race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, age, belief, etc.

9. Citizenship 

No citizen may be deprived of their right to citizenship 

10. Political rights

Every citizen has the right to make their own political choices. This includes the right to form a political party, recruit members and campaign for a political cause.

Every citizen is also afforded the right to vote in free, fair and regular elections.

If you want to learn more about your human rights, click here.

Where to go when your rights are infringed on?

South Africa has multiple chapter 9 bodies for the purpose of protecting South Africans' human rights at no cost.

This includes the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, the Gender Commission and the Equality Court.

We still have a long way to go - expert

While it has been said that South Africa boasts the best Constitution in the world, Liesl Muller, who is with Lawyers for Human Rights, argues that it is its implementation that is lacking.

"We definitely have the best Constitution, we are not the best at implementing these rights.

"This is because most South Africans do not have access to justice," she explained.

Although South Africa has multiple chapter 9 bodies to assist in the promotion and protection of human rights at no expense, they cannot reach all South Africans.

"You then need legal assistance which can be only afforded by a very few.

"Legal aid is only available to the very very poor so that it leaves out a large population who cannot access justice and that is where organisations such as Lawyers for Human Rights come in. We definitely still have a long way to go," she said.

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