Human rights are rights that everyone should have simply because they are human. No other qualification is required. They are standards that allow all people to live with dignity, freedom, equality, justice and peace. Human rights are not only moral principles, but they are part of international law contained in declarations and treaties that all countries are required to uphold.
The United Nations (UN), has defined 30 articles of Human Rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). According to the UN, human rights belong to all people, cannot be taken away and should be respected without prejudice. Even though governments are the primary protectors and promoters of our human rights, all individuals are responsible for upholding and observing these rights.
As we celebrate Human Rights Day, let us revisit the first five rights outlined in the UDHR and what they mean to us as South Africans.
- The right to equality and freedom from discrimination
After our long and painful history with apartheid, we should be experts in identifying any system that discriminates against fellow human beings. Discrimination is not only racial, it can be along the lines of gender, economic status, religion or sexual orientation. It is our responsibility to promote the equality of all individuals and protect all against any forms of discrimination. There have been many stories in the media of people being discriminated against and we should make similar noise for all advances we have made in upholding the rights of all people in our country.
It is our responsibility to promote the equality of all individuals and protect all against any forms of discrimination.
- The right to life, liberty and personal security
Much can be said about the levels of fatal crime in our country. A lot also must be said about the systems and processes put in place by our government to protect our right to life. From the military to the police and the judicial system. These and more protect our liberty and promote our right to life.
- Freedom from torture and degrading treatment
South Africa Human Rights Commission was set up to handle complaints about human rights violations whilst also creating a national culture of human rights. We are in one of the few countries that have designated structures to handle human rights issues such as The Equality Court. This promotes the equal treatment of people and deters degrading behavior.
- The right to equality before the law
In our advanced democracy, it is always important to remember that equality before the law is one of the building blocks of an equal society.
The rich, the poor, criminals and foreigners must experience the law alike.
Sometimes due to social pressure, the legal system might appear to be treating social misfits favorably or delaying justice for people judged and sentenced by society. The justice system must be fair, consistent and always allow due process to take place regardless of social pressure. The rich, the poor, criminals and foreigners must experience the law alike.
- The right to fair trial
Recently there have been many high-profile trials that have put our judicial system in the spotlight. From the former president to cabinet ministers, pastors and celebrities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that fair trial must be accorded to them in the same manner it would be for less famous and influential individuals.
Happy Human Rights Day. Remember to respect, protect and take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights for all.