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Human Rights Day – 21 March 2017

Human Rights Day – 21 March 2017

Human Rights Day is commemorated on 21 March to remind citizens about the struggle for democracy in South Africa.

In the 1960s there was widespread defiance and protest against the apartheid laws and racism, across the country. The Sharpeville Massacre occurred on 21 March 1960, at the police station in the township of Sharpeville. After a day of demonstrations against pass laws, a crowd of about 5 000 to 7000 black protesters went to the police station. The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville, amongst them children. The tragedy came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre and it exposed the apartheid government’s deliberate violation of human rights to the world. Many people were killed in the country, throughout the rule of the apartheid government; a government which flouted the human rights of the country’s non-white citizens.

The democratic government, elected in 1994, declared March 21 Human Rights Day, to commemorate and honour those citizens who fought (and died) for the country’s liberation, and the right for equality for all before the law. South Africa’s Constitution is considered as one of the most progressive, and is the ultimate protector of its people’s human rights.

Human Rights Day is celebrated, to reinforce the Bill of Rights as entrenched in the Constitution.

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 the right for their dignity to be respected and protected.
  • Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has the right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.
  • Language and culture – everyone has the right to make use of the language, and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
  • Life – everyone has the right to life.

Human Rights come with responsibilities and we all have the responsibility to build a society that respects the rule of law. Whether we are at the work place, within communities, at schools, or with our partners and children, we all need to demonstrate the kind of responsibility for human rights, that we would like to see in South Africa’s future.

We also have a responsibility to ensure that our human rights record and history, are preserved for future generations.

Human Rights Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the past and assess the progress in the promotion and protection of human rights in South Africa.


In everything that we do, we believe in giving hope and restoring dignity.