Since 1995, Human Rights Day has been a public holiday celebrated in South Africa. It shares the day with the anniversary of the infamous , which occurred in 1960. This gross violation of human life happened when a march by ordinary South Africans protesting the
turned into a police-led bloodbath. The day marked a turning point for the future of South Africa and the , which intensified in its wake. The police brutality on display during Sharpeville, as well as other innumerable acts of violence under Apartheid, are what inspired South Africa s famously progressive , in which the right to life, regardless of race, gender or age is entrenched.
On March 21, 1960, 69 people were killed and 180 were wounded in Sharpeville when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered at the police station to protest against the Pass laws. What are your rights? 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. Persons and groups are entitled to freedom of assembly, association, belief and opinion, and expression.
They have the right to demonstrate, picket and petition; everyone has the right to be free of forced labour, servitude and slavery. All persons have a right to privacy and to exercise political rights; all have a right to access to information and just administration action. They have rights when arrested, detained and accused, and must have access to courts. Protected rights include a healthy environment; housing, health care, food, water and social security. All have a right to freedom of movement and residence and of trade, occupation and profession.
In the workplace everyone has a right to engage in trade unions and labour movements. Anyone has the right to purchase property anywhere, and to a basic education. They have a right to language and culture and communities; and not least, freedom of religion and belief. The Bill of Rights also specifies the rights of persons belonging to cultural, religious or linguistic communities and the rights of children. In addition, there are specific laws to safeguard women and protect children.