What is the South African Bill of Rights?

In this video, we explain what Chapter 2 of our Constitution, the South African Bill of Rights, entails.

Human rights were systematically violated under Apartheid. The Bill of Rights breaks with that past. It shields us from abuse by the state, but also instructs the state to protect and assist us, particularly when we are marginalised or vulnerable. It safeguards the rights of all people in the country and is binding on the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and all organs of state.

The Bill of Rights is contained in Chapter 2 of our Constitution. It outlines different groups of human rights. The basic rights include the rights to equality, dignity and life. Civil rights are for example the right to freedom and security of the person and the right to privacy. There are political rights, like the right to start, or join, a political party, the right to vote, and to stand for election. Some rights deal with socio-economic issues. These include the rights to housing, health-care, food, water, education, and social security.

Being vulnerable, children have special rights, such as the right to a name, nationality, care, nutrition, shelter, health-care and protection from abuse. Under Apartheid, land was taken from black people. The property clause is a special right and has both, a civil and a socio-economic dimension.

The Bill of Rights also protects cultural rights: the right to use a language of your choice and to practice your culture, as long as the rights of others are respected.

Most of these rights are not absolute: my right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins! So there is a limitation clause included in the Bill of Rights, stipulating rules for when the government is allowed to limit rights. Rights may only be limited by law; there must be a good purpose for the limitation; it must be reasonable; and the limitation must be the least restrictive way of achieving the purpose.

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