Reflecting on human rights gains

Monday, March 21, 2022

Government has encouraged South Africans to reflect on the human rights gains achieved since the advent of democracy and to recommit to upholding the rights of all who live in South Africa.

Today marks 62 years since the Sharpeville Massacre occurred on 21 March 1960, where 69 anti-apartheid protesters were killed by the police.

This national day also honours the 35 people who were killed when police cracked down on community members in Langa, Uitenhage, where they had attended a funeral on 21 March 1985.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the keynote address at the 2022 Human Rights Day national event at the Reagile Community Centre in Koster, North West.

The event will be commemorated under the theme, 'The Year of Unity and Renewal: Protecting and Preserving Our Human Rights Gains'.

During his visit, President Ramaphosa will also officially open the new Reagile Community Library, named after the area in which it is located.

“The Reagile Community Library was formerly accommodated in an old unused municipality building, which was unsuitable for use as a library.

“The new facility has been made possible by funding of R7.5 million by the Community Library Service Grant administered by the Department of Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation,” the Presidency said.

During the construction of this 500 sq metre community asset, 22 people were employed. Features of the library include a literature collection of more than 8 000 titles; an activity/study room; a children’s library equipped with a toy library collection, a story pit andan  outside play area; a public internet corner; an audio-visual room for persons with visual disabilities, and a library collection area with designated space for adults and juvenile collections.

“The library service is offered for free to the community. Community members can use the services internally and are required to register for membership to borrow books,” the Presidency said.

Human Rights Day is the focal day of the annual Human Rights Month programme of activities generated or supported by various sectors of society.

Human rights gains

Since the advent of democracy, government has made strides in engendering a human rights culture in the country.

In an effort to address the discrimination and abuse against women, the President in 2018 convened the National Summit against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. There has also been a 365-days commitment in this fight across all government departments and State agencies.

In addition, the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities developed a National Strategic Plan (NSP), in which all commitments on practical interventions are codified, monitored and reported about periodically as a way to gauge progress or otherwise.

On the legislative front, there has also been progress, given the latest enactment into law of the three anti- gender-based violence (GBV) bills.

These legislative reforms will, among others, allow victims to make online protection order applications without being present in court.

Moreover, protection order applications will be on a 24-hour basis on the online application platform.

As a deterrent measure for likely perpetrators, one of the bills has provision that makes it possible for the particulars of persons convicted of sexual offenses to be made publicly available.

These bills include the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill and Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is also hard at work in consultations with stakeholders that will ensure that going forward, sex work is decriminalised. –