By Naseerah Nanabhai
In 1994, the democratic government declared March 21st Human Rights Day, to commemorate and honour those who fought for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. The day is historically linked with the events of March 21st, 1960, at Sharpeville.
On that day, a peaceful crowd had gathered to protest against Pass laws, they were met with police who opened fire killing 69 people and leaving 180 wounded. The events of that day also referred to as the ‘Sharpeville massacre’, is noted as an assertion by ordinary citizens, rising in harmony and unity to declare their rights.
This year, Human Rights Day coincides with the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution. The constitution is a guard against violations of our human rights, a privilege that was denied to the majority of people during the apartheid regime.
Our Constitution is recognized as one of the most progressive in the world. In commemorating Human Rights Day, we reinforce our commitment to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in our Constitution. These rights include the right to equality, human dignity, freedom of movement and residence, language and culture, and life.
The liberty we envision for our country’s future is up to us to establish. Let us use Human Rights Day to foster greater social cohesion, nation-building, and a shared national identity. It is up to us to contest afflictions such as racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and all related intolerances as well as gender-based violence and femicide, which are all damaging our human rights culture.