As outlined by the South African Bill of Rights, everyone has a right to “life, equality and human dignity”. These liberties include the right to citizenship, security, freedom of assembly, association, belief, opinion, and expression.
We must uphold and protect the “rights of all people from violation, irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whether they are foreign nationals or not – human rights apply to everyone, equally”, the South African Parliament explains.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) also advocates the rights of everyone to have access to health care. “The right to have access to health care services is a basic human right guaranteed by the Constitution. Section 27 of the Constitution provides that everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care services, and no one may be refused emergency medical treatment”, says the SAHRC.
Despite this well-intended legislation, South Africa remains an “unequal society”, explains the SAHRC, and the “type of services people receive tends to be influenced significantly by their socio-economic status and ability to access to services, regardless of the level of need for care needed”.
As explained in an article by Charles Ngwena, featured in the journal Health and Human Rights, this type of equality is “difficult to secure” due to a dependence on the economic resources needed to uphold social rights for all.
The particularly vulnerable
Key populations are particularly vulnerable to the limitations and challenges found in addressing inequality in our society. According to USAID, key populations includes sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, and people in confined settings such as prison.
These key populations are more at risk of facing the difficulties associated with inequality due to factors that include marginalization, stigma, and discrimination.
What we can all do to help
It is not just up to government and legislation to ensure equal rights for all. Every member of society can contribute significantly to advocating dignity and freedom for all members of society.
It is essential for each of us to speak up if we feel that our rights or the rights of any other person have been compromised. This is known as advocacy, and it places a significant responsibility on us to speak up on behalf of those who may not be able to speak up on their own behalf. These efforts can involve sharing the stories of others and allowing their voices to be heard in places that they may not have had access to in the past.
Volunteering and donating can also be a great way to lend a hand and contribute to creating an equal society for all.
Supporting companies and purchasing products that operate ethically and promote fair trade can encourage businesses to treat their employees better and with more consideration of their human rights.
One of the most powerful things that we can do to help promote greater freedom and equality for all is to do whatever we can to eliminate discrimination. Discrimination is directly responsible for much of the inequality and many of the limitations people face within our communities.