Human Rights Day—more than a public holiday. Do you know why?

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

As Newcastillians unwind today, 22 March 2021, embracing a well-deserved long weekend, how many of us appreciate the significance of this public holiday?

Human Rights Day is commemorated annually on 21 March, reminding South Africans about the sacrifices made in our country’s history in the pursuit of democracy. Moreover, the day forwards us the opportunity to reflect on the advancement made in promoting and protecting human rights.

Probing into SA’s history, the 1960s was an era of methodical defiance, and many protested against apartheid and racism across the country.

Then, on 21 March 1960, Sharpeville and Langa townships’ community embarked on a march to protest against the pass laws. This resulted in the police shooting and killing 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville, many of whom were shot while fleeing. This tragedy eventually became known as the Sharpeville Massacre, exposing the apartheid government’s deliberate violation of human rights to the world.

After years of many South African’s of all race groups fighting this horrid system, the apartheid regime fell. The democratic government declared 21 March as Human Rights Day to honour those who fought for liberation and the rights we as South Africans enjoy today.

These rights include:

  • Equality – everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
  • Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected.
  • Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.
  • Language and culture – everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
  • Life – everyone has the right to life.

As we embrace the day off from work, let us all take the time to learn the entire history of our country’s challenges and subsequent victories in order to appreciate how our country has developed and changed for the better.

For an in-depth, must-read of our county’s history, click the link – 

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