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Know Your Rights

Written by More Matshediso

As the country prepares to commemorate Human Rights Day, South Africans are urged to reach out to one another.

This is a plea from the Department of Arts and Culture, which will be leading this year’s official commemoration at George Thabe Cricket Pitch in Sharpeville in Vereeniging on 21 March.

The event will mark the 25th commemoration since 1994 and will be held under the theme: “The Year of Indigenous Languages: Promoting and Deepening a Human Rights Culture.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the keynote address.

About Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day has its origins in the events that unfolded at Sharpeville in Gauteng and at Langa in the Western Cape on 21 March 1960, when apartheid security forces cracked down on peaceful marches that opposed pass laws that had been imposed on black South Africans.

Tomorrow’s programme will start with a wreath-laying ceremony just before 10am at the Sharpeville Memorial Site, followed by the keynote address by President Ramaphosa at the George Thabe Sports Ground.

What are human rights?

Commission of Gender Equality communication manager Mofihli Teleki said human rights are all the entitlements and freedoms that are afforded to citizens

“Examples of human rights include, but not limited to, the right to life, property, equality, economic, cultural rights and the right to work,” he added.

For many years, government and society have been advocating for women to be treated equally in South Africa.

The link between gender equality and human rights

Teleki weighed in to explain the link between human rights and gender equality.

He defined gender equality as a concept that prescribes that men and women should be free to develop themselves and reach their full potential irrespective of their sexual orientation and beliefs.

“In other words, the prospects for men and women to develop their potential should not be dependent on their gender identity,” he explained.

“Equality in the context of gender is achieved when the rights of men and women are enjoyed in relation to opportunities, economic participation and decision making. For gender equality to be realised, the aspirations of both men and women need to be valued on an equal footing,” Teleki added.

He said there is a close connection between gender equality and human rights.  

“International human rights laws guarantee that men and women have equal rights in the context of education, land and property rights, employment shelter, and religious rights.”

He said in the South African context, Section 9 Bill of Rights of the Constitution states that there may not be discrimination against anyone on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

He said tendencies related to patriarchy are amongst things that make it difficult to attain gender equality in South Africa, as they become subversive to the rights of women.

When citizens feel that their rights are being infringed, they can contact the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on 011 403 7182 or via the website www.cge.org.za or toll free number 0800 007 709.

The CGE is obligated to investigate cases or matters related to gender discrimination in order to make recommendations to redress.