Press Release: Human Rights Day

Written by Matipa Mwamuka
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 02:00
Taking human rights beyond the paper that they are written on

Fifty years ago South Africans citizens protested against pass laws on 21st March . Their collective action has brought forth to Human rights day; a day to commemorate their actions ,celebrate the new South Africa and reflect on how we are experiencing the protection of our rights. The battle against an inhuman apartheid government and the creation of a humane society are two different things. Today’s challenges are not to tear down a system that denies human rights, but to build up a system that upholds human rights.

Today the unfortunate reality is a that human rights are still being abused in a democratic and free South Africa, . South Africans have fought, marched,protested and died for their human rights: One is reminded by a struggle saying” I will rather die on my feet than live on my knees”. These sacrifices brought about a changed country, manifested in the globally revered constitution. We have a constitution that champions the defence of human rights: such as: Freedom of movement, dignity, freedom of association, equality…. The question is: How does these rights extend beyond the paper they are written on? The international convention South Africa ratifies and the subsequent formulation of domestic legislation is just the beginning of that very process.

In 2010, South Africa takes the world stage on two fronts. One for hosting the Soccer World Cup and the second for passing a comprehensive legislation to combat human trafficking. The Minister of Justice has stated that the bill might be passed as early as April. It is important to acknowledge that the World Cup event is certainly the catalyst that brought about the rapid response to pass this law, which will outlaw the moderday practice of slavery.

Human trafficking is not just a crime against an individual but indeed a crime against humanity, The enslavement of a person ultimately denies that individual of freedom of movement, dignity, equality. It is a horrible and monstrous crime. South Africa now joins four of the 15 SADC countries: Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Tanzania that have proposed legislation to combat human trafficking.

Anex (Activists Networking Against the exploitation of children), has been working to draw attention to the issue of human trafficking in South Africa. Through our capacity building efforts with various service providers and victim assistance services we have begun to identify trends and nature of human trafficking. This legislation is an opportunity to protect the victims human rights by rejecting modern slavery and creating clarity of roles for government departments, Chapter nine institutions, and Civil Society Organisation to work collectively to combat human trafficking as a collective.

Human trafficking will not be defeated without tangible support, dedicated informed service providers, and a clear mandate from the government. We need to build up our support structures, infuse our social services with the information they need, and develop counter measures that go far beyond the written word. Fifty years later the struggle to protect the human rights of the vulnerable continues.