The Bill of Rights – important rights


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The Bill of Rights: 10 important rights

Human rights are a vital part of everyone’s lives. They are rights that you, and everyone else, have, just because we are human. In South Africa, the Constitution protects the rights of everyone in South Africa – the Bill of Rights, found at Section Two of the Constitution, contains these right. It is important to know about the Bill of Rights because it protects your civil, political and socio-economic rights – so all the rights that will affect you in your normal day-to-day living.

The Bill of Rights protects “all people in our country”, this means that it applies to everyone in South Africa, even if they aren’t citizens. The Bill of Rights also makes it clear that the state (everyone in the government) has to listen to the Bill of Rights.

The thing is… the Bill of Rights is long! And although everyone should read the whole thing at some point, it can be a little difficult to understand. So, to help you out we’ve put together a list of 10 important rights that you need to know about from the Bill of Rights. This simple summary will give you a jump start to know your rights and the rights of others – cool hey?!

Here is a list of 10 important rights you have and need to know about:

1) Equality

The right to equality is the very first right listed in the Bill of Rights. Section 9 of the Constitution says, “everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.”

Our Constitution is also really amazing because it states that no one can discriminate against someone because of their “race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.” So whether you are white or black, straight, gay or non-gender specific, young or old, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Agnostic, or anything else in between, we are all seen as equal and we all have equal rights. But equality in the Constitution goes even further than this! It recognises that because of discrimination and injustice in the past, our society is unequal, and our society needs to fix this. So, if a person or group was discriminated against in the past, the state can treat them differently, to try and ensure that we have a more equal society in the future.


2) Human dignity

Everyone who is a human being is worthy of honour and respect. Under the Bill of Rights everyone in South Africa has the right to have their dignity respected and protected. The right to dignity strengthens and supports many of the other rights in the Constitution. For example; it would be difficult for anyone to live a dignified life without being able to have food or water – this shows how the right to food and water is linked to the right to dignity.


3) Freedom and security of the person

This is a very lawyery way of saying that everyone has the right not to be arrested for no reason, and no one can be tortured or treated inhumanly. It also means that everyone should be free from all forms of violence, no matter where they go.

If you think your right to freedom is being broken at any point you can take action – find out how here.


4) Freedom of religion

“Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.” This means that you can believe whatever you want – and it also means that you should respect the right of everyone else to believe what they want.


5) Freedom of expression

Your voice and your opinion matters. And the Bill of Rights recognises this. Under this right, you have the right to say what you want, as long as it isn’t something that undermines or challenges other people’s rights. Another important part of this right is that it protects media freedom. This is important because it means that the press and media are not independent, and not controlled by the government, and have the right to report the news the way they think best.


6) Housing

Everyone living in South Africa has the right of access to housing. This means you have the right to a roof over your head and it is the state’s (Government’s) job to make sure that everyone can access their right. But the right also recognises that providing everyone with access to housing is expensive and, so, instead of requiring the state to provide housing to everyone immediately, the Constitution requires that the State provide more and more people with housing each year, until everyone can access their right.

This right is also important because it says that no one can evict you or take away your house without the court saying so.

If you, or someone you know, is being threatened with eviction, and you think that the eviction is unlawful, there are organisations that can help you. Find out more here.


7) Health care, food, water, social security

Laid out very clearly in Section 27 of the Constitution is a series of rights regarding health. You have the right to health care, which includes reproductive health care, including access to contraception. But, like the right of access to housing, this right must be progressively realised, instead of immediately realised. This means that, over time, everyone should be able to access their right to healthcare, even if they can’t right now. However, everyone has the right to claim emergency health care immediately, and must be able to see a doctor or get emergency medical attention when you need to. Under this right you also have the right to food and water.


8) Children

Under the Bill of Rights, children (anyone under the age of 18) have special rights. These rights are laid out in Section 28 of the Constitution and view children’s best interests as very, very important.

The special rights for children include:

  • The right to a name and a nationality from birth.
  • The right to a family or someone to look after the child.
  • The right to food, shelter, health care and social services.
  • The right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation – this one is especially important!
  • The right to not be forced to work.
  • The right not to do any work that isn’t appropriate for their age, and that would place a “child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development.”
  • The right to not be detained (put in jail) or not be detained for a long time. If a child is detained then they have the right to be kept separate from people over the age of 18.
  • “To have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result.”
  • The right “not to be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict.”

Remember these rights – they are very important and can make a big difference to your life. If you are under 18, and you think your rights aren’t being respected


9) Education

“Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education; and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.” – Section 29 South African Constitution #enoughsaid

Education is important and we all have the right to learn more so that we can progress in life. If you think that the facilities at your school, or the level of education you are receiving is substandard, there are organisations that can help you to claim your right.


10) There are 18 other rights listed in the Bill of Rights that can help you lead a dignified life, you can read more about all of these rights here

If you think anyone is breaking any of your rights you can stop them! Take action now.