Human Rights Month 2024
1 to 31 March

Human Rights Month is commemorated in March to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. 

The democratic government declared 21 March Human Rights Day to commemorate and honour those who fought for our liberation and the rights we enjoy today.

The theme for 2024 is: Three Decades of Respect for and Promotion of Human Rights”,

President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Thursday 21 March 2024, will deliver the keynote address at the 2024 Human Rights Day commemoration to be held at the George Thabe Stadium, in Sharpeville, Gauteng.

The history of Human Rights Day is grounded in the Sharpeville Massacre that took place on the 21 of March 1960, where apartheid police killed 69 anti-apartheid protesters.

The 1960s were characterised by systematic defiance and protest against apartheid and racism across the country. On 21 March 1960, the community of Sharpeville and Langa townships, like their fellow compatriots across the country, embarked on a protest march to protest against pass laws. The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville, many of them shot while fleeing. Many other people were killed in other parts of the country. 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.

Human Rights Day also honours 35 people who were killed on 21 March 1985 when apartheid police targeted community members after a funeral at Uitenhage/Langa.

As part of the democratic dispensation, South Africa observes March as Human Rights Month to promote respect for basic human rights for all and restore and uphold human dignity in line with the Bill of Rights.

This period also honours those who fought for liberation, and celebrates the many rights guaranteed under the Constitution, and which are the basis for building a united and inclusive, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.

Government, social partners and constitutional institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission are guided by the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

The National Action Plan provides the basis for raising awareness of anti-racism, equality and anti-discrimination issues and developing collective responses.

Our Constitution is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution is the ultimate protector of our Human Rights, which were previously denied to the majority of our people under Apartheid. We commemorate Human Rights Day to reinforce our commitment to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in our Constitution.

These rights include:

  • LANGUAGE AND CULTURE: You have the right to use the language of your choice and practice your own culture.   
  • CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS AND LINGUISTIC COMMUNITIES: You have the right to form, join and maintain cultural, linguistic and /or religious groupings of your own choice.    
  • EDUCATION: You have the right to receive basic education in the official language of your choice where that education is reasonably practicable.    
  • EQUALITY: Everyone is equal before the law and may not be unfairly discriminated against.
  • HUMAN DIGNITY: Everyone has inherent human dignity which must be respected.
  • LIFE: Everyone has the right to life.
  • FREEDOM AND SECURITY OF THE PERSON: You have a right to be free from all forms of violence and not be detained without trial.
  • ACCESS TO COURTS: You have the right to resolve your legal disputes in a court or another impartial tribunal.    
  • ARRESTED, DETAINED AND ACCUSED PERSONS: When arrested for allegedly committing an offence, you have the right to remain silent, to be brought before a court within 48 hours and the right to legal representation.    
  • SLAVERY, SERVITUDE AND FORCED LABOUR: You may not be subjected to slavery or forced labour. 
  • PRIVACY: Your right to privacy includes your body, home and possessions.
  • FREEDOM OF RELIGION, BELIEF AND OPINION: You have the right to think, believe in and belong to a religion of your choice.    
  • FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: You have the right to speak or express yourself on whatever you choose but hate speech is not allowed.    
  • ASSEMBLY, DEMONSTRATION, PICKET AND PETITION: You have the right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and protest.
  • FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: You have the right to associate with anyone.    
  • POLITICAL RIGHTS: You may form a political party, run for office and vote for any party in free and fair elections.
  • CITIZENSHIP: No citizen may be deprived of citizenship.    
  • FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND RESIDENCE: You have the right to enter and leave the republic at will.    
  • FREEDOM OF TRADE, OCCUPATION AND PROFESSION: You have the right to choose any legal trade or occupation freely.
  • LABOUR RELATIONS: Every worker and employer has the right to organise and negotiate to further their aims.    
  • LIMITATION OF RIGHTS: Everyone's rights may be limited. The limitation should be reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.    
  • ENVIRONMENT: You have the right to live in a safe, healthy environment.  
  • PROPERTY: No-one may be deprived of property, except in terms of law of general application.    
  • HOUSING: You have the right to have access to adequate housing.    
  • HEALTH CARE, FOOD, WATER AND SOCIAL SECURITY: You have the right to have access to health care, adequate food, water and social security.    
  • CHILDREN: Every child has the right to a name, nationality and protection from abuse and exploitation.    
  • JUST ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION: You have the right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair. 

Whether we are at the workplace, within communities, at schools, or with our partners and children, we all need to demonstrate the kind of responsibility that we would like to see in our country’s future.

We call on all South Africans to use Human Rights Month to foster greater social cohesion, nation-building and a shared national identity. It is our duty as a nation to strive for inclusive socio-economic development while ensuring that we combat scourges such as racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all related intolerances as well as gender-based violence and femicide, which are undermining our human rights culture. 

# HumanRightsDay2024