Friday, 21 March is National Human Rights Day. National Human Rights Day in South Africa refers to the day set aside to celebrate Human Rights and to remind all South Africans of their Human Rights.
What does it mean?
Human Rights are the rights that everyone has, simply because they are human. We all have these rights from the moment we are born. We thus do not have to earn them and they cannot easily be taken away from us.
Chapter 2 of the Constitution contains the Bill of Rights, which refers to the list of Human Rights. Everyone in South Africa, including the Government, must adhere to these Rights. It is very difficult to change the constitution, which in turn makes it difficult to change the Bill of Rights.
Why 21 March?
Human Rights Day was implemented on 21 March due to the Sharpville Massacre of 1960. On this day, many events were planned to protest against Pass Laws (dompass). This law required all Africans to carry their pass with them, failure to do so would result in arrest by the Police. On this day, people decided to go to the Police stations without their passes and demand to be arrested. The idea was that the prisons become so full, that the country would not be able to function properly and in doing so the passbooks would be scrapped.
Thousands of people gathered at the Sharpeville Police Station, but was met by 300 Police Officers. After a scuffle broke out, Police opened fire on the group and 67 people were killed, and 180 injured. These people were simply striving for equal rights.
A basic list of Human Rights as in the Bill of Rights:
• Equality (Section 9)
• Human dignity (Section 10)
• Freedom of expression (Section 16)
• Assembly, demonstration, picket and petition (Section 17)
• Freedom of association (Section 18) and
• Freedom of movement and residence (Section 21)
What does Human Rights mean to you as a South African and how are you going to enjoy National Human Rights Day?