Why do we celebrate Human Rights Day?

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Why do we celebrate Human Rights Day?

Why do we celebrate Human Rights Day?

Before South Africa became a constitutional democracy in 1994, its history was fraught with human rights abuses and inequities. The interim Constitution of 1993 ushered in a new dawn; we now have constitutionally protected human rights. These rights are also protected in the final Constitution of 1996. Having constitutionally protected human rights is indeed cause to celebrate Human Rights Day!

We celebrate Human Rights Day annually on 21 March. This day, which is now celebrated, was once a day of mourning. On this day in 1960, 69 people were killed and 108 were wounded in Sharpeville when peaceful protestors were fired upon by the police. The peaceful protest was against the objectionable pass law, which entitled the police to ask any Black person at any time to produce a properly endorsed pass, failing which, the person was arrested. This is but one example of the infringement of the majority of South Africans’ right to freedom of movement. This right is now a constitutionally protected human right. Despite 21 March 1960 having been a sombre day in our history, we now have yet another reason to celebrate the freedoms and other constitutionally protected human rights following years of struggle for freedom.

Let us not forget our history, but let us not repeat our history. Celebrate freedom. Celebrate the protection of our human rights by one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.



Opinion – Advocate Heidi C. Schoeman SchoemanH@unizulu.ac.za

Senior Lecturer

Department of Law