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Celebrating Our Human Rights despite the global pandemic

Heritage Human Rights 3 min read

South Africans are in no mood to celebrate anything at the moment. It's really easy (and valid) to feel anxious about what is happening in the world currently. It's almost like we are holding our breath not knowing what will come next. So, before things get too hectic... let's pause for a moment and take a walk down memory lane.

South Africa as a nation, has a beautiful history of strength, resilience, and unity in some of the toughest times imaginable. (particularly when it comes to our human rights) This article is here to help remind you of the times we fought together and won.

Together we did overcome and we will do it again.
Celebrating Our Human Rights despite the global pandemic
Photographer: Ashim D’Silva | Source: Unsplash

Do you remember that time We Stopped the Millions from dying from HIV/AIDS

The fight was spearheaded by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). A South African HIV/AIDS activist organization that was co-founded by the HIV-positive activist Zackie Achmat in the year 1998.

According to TAC's founder, two million South Africans died prematurely of AIDS during the term of former President Mbeki. Many of these deaths could have been prevented, by the timely implementation of access to anti-HIV drugs. At the time, HIV/AIDS denialism had a significant impact on public health policy as Mbeki criticized the scientific consensus that HIV does cause AIDS.

Faced with the looming possibility that millions more could die, the TAC took the government to court, arguing that the government had violated its obligation under Section 27 of the Constitution to provide health care, food, water, and social security. The Constitutional Court held that the government had acted unreasonably, and contrary to the constitution, in refusing to make an antiretroviral drug called nevirapine available in the public sector. (Antiretroviral access is now an official policy.)

The Time We Fought For Same-Sex Marriage and Won

South Africa was the first country in the world to safeguard sexual orientation as a human right in its Constitution which forbids discrimination based on sex, gender or sexual orientation.

In 2002, a lesbian couple, Marié Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys, with the support of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, launched an application in the Pretoria High Court to have their union recognized and recorded by the Department of Home Affairs as a valid marriage. Judge Pierre Roux dismissed the application on 18 October 2002, on the technical basis that they had not properly attacked the constitutionality of the definition of marriage or the Marriage Act, 1961.

They took the matter to the Constitutional Court in which the nine judges hearing the case agreed unanimously that same-sex couples were entitled to marry, accordingly declared the common-law definition of marriage to be inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it did not permit same-sex couples to enjoy the status and the benefits coupled with responsibilities it accorded to heterosexual couples

Today, according to the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006 same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa.

The Time We Respected The Sanctity of Life

Capital punishment in South Africa was abolished on 6 June 1995 by the ruling of the Constitutional Court in the case of S v Makwanyane, following a five-year and four-month moratorium since February 1990

Wilderness
Photographer: Ravi Roshan | Source: Unsplash

S v Makwanyane and Another was a landmark 1995 judgment of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. It established that capital punishment was inconsistent with the commitment to human rights expressed in the Interim Constitution.

The accused in this matter were convicted on four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances. They were sentenced to death on each of the counts of murder and received two long terms of imprisonment on the other counts. These were not angels. However, when the matter reached the Constitutional Court, It established that capital punishment was inconsistent with the commitment to human rights expressed in the Interim Constitution.

A final word before we go

South Africans celebrated Human Rights Day recently, it was a bit different because of the current situation but we celebrated none the less.

What's important is that all South Africans know their most basic rights afforded to them. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe, or how you choose to live your life. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted. These basic rights are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect, and independence.

South Africa Heritage Human Rights COVID19