Humans have from the dawn of civilization survived the cruelties of nature through unity and instinctual compassion. This compassion is the birth-child of the understanding that humans have for one another, the understanding of the beauty and prosperity that can be achieved through the art of nurturing and mutual preservation.
On the 21st March 1960, an anti-pass law campaign led by the Pan Africanist Congress organised a mass demonstration in Sharpeville, Gauteng, where hundreds of black protesters gathered without their passes and presented themselves up for arrest at the township’s local police department. After a vain effort to convince the crowd to disperse, the police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 69 and injuring a further 180 peaceful protesters.
34 years later, following the dawn of democracy, the 21st March was declared as a day of reflection on the gross human rights violations enforced by the apartheid regime. As a public holiday, March 21st represents the basic human obligations we all must respect and protect the rights that apply to us from birth to death.
This day also represents the appreciation many have for the enforcement of human rights in contemporary society. Through the years however, people have somewhat abused the true meaning of Human Rights Day by treating it as just another public holiday: much like the discourteous attitude of youths in celebration of June 16th, Human Rights Day isn’t as respected as it used to be.
This sentiment is supplemented by the blatant disregard people have daily for the basic rights of others, with 2019 bearing little hope for the evolution from this mentality. In the first three months of the year alone we have witnessed numerous cases of gross human rights violations worldwide. This begs the question: are our leaders and justice systems doing enough to protect our human rights?
by Lebogang Mashego