News flash: next week, we celebrate Human Rights Day. Before you start making plans for the public holiday, take a beat.
Have you ever wondered what it actually means to have human rights? Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where you’ve felt unsure about what you should tolerate. Let’s take a look at a selection of rights you need be aware of for campus life.
Right the Wrongs
The birth of our Rainbow Nation in 1991 brought a new chance for equality and growth, as well as an opportunity to right many wrongs that had been committed during Apartheid. One of those wrongs was the denial of various basic human rights to the majority of the country’s population.
Since our country’s transition, there has been a thorough revision of what constitutes our rights – the rights we have because of the simple fact that we are human beings.
The Bill of Rights
The new South African Constitution lists specific human rights – this list is called the Bill of Rights. In other words, this bill is what aims to protect you from unfair treatment, discrimination, or any violation of your human rights.
Check out Chapter 2 of the South African Constitution. This outlines your rights as a human being. Knowledge really is power. Trust us.
Right On, Campus!
We’ve come up with a selection of rights that we feel is particularly important for every student to be aware of. Check out these brief outlines of how they may apply to campus life.
- Freedom and Security of the Person
You have the right to be in control of your body and mind, and no one is allowed to threaten your physical or psychological wellbeing – not with bullying, assault, or any other form of abuse.
No one can force you to give up personal information about yourself, or just search through your stuff, like your room, jeans pockets, or text messages (without clear and legal authorisation at least).
- Freedom of Religion, Belief, and Opinion
You have the right to belong to whichever religion or belief system you choose. No one may force you to believe, think, or feel anything you don’t want to. You are also free to love whoever you want, regardless of what they believe or who they are.
- Freedom of Trade, Occupation, and Profession
As long as you meet the set requirements, you have the right to study anything you want, and become anything you want to become – whether that is a doctor, a circus performer, or a professional gamer.
- Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
Whether you are an exchange student who prefers to hang out with fellow internationals, or whether you only want to associate with people who have the same sexual orientation or religion as you – it is up to you who you hang out with, regardless of what others think or believe is right and wrong.
- Freedom of Expression
You are allowed to speak your mind, as long as what you say doesn’t violate someone else’s human right, like hate speech. So, don’t be scared to voice your opinion in class, essays and exams – you have a right to do so.
You have just as much right to be furthering your studies as anyone else at your institution, no matter who you are or where you come from.
- Assembly, Demonstration, Picket and Petition
Student protests are allowed as long as they are peaceful.
What if Your Rights are Violated?
If your rights have been violated, don’t just let it go. Confide in someone who you trust and who can help you – and try your best to alert the right authorities about what has happened, or is happening. Make sure you know the whereabouts of your campus security and health facilities.
In a case where an authority is the one violating your rights, then turn to their superior. For example, if you feel that your tutor is discriminating against you, or you have been penalised for voicing your own opinion. Don’t just accept it because they are an authority. Know your rights.
The South African Human Rights Commission has an online form that you can fill in at any time to report the violation of a human right. You can view it here. If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can call them on 011 877 3825 or 011 877 3803.
If you have experienced and reported any violation of your rights, share your story. This could be from fellow students or lecturers, violence on campus, or any another form. It’s important that students encourage each other. You might help someone else speak up.