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South Africa, post apartheid era, has had to refocus their attempts at bettering their demographics compared to many industrialized countries, as well as address inequalities within their current health care system. In addition to addressing those social and economic issues, their outlook on human rights has also been subject to refocus in light of the new era of political change. South Africa has had five constitutional changes within its history of being an independent republic, and their most current constitution (1996) had included Black African representation, a bill of rights (modeled from both the United States Constitution (1789) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)), and adult suffrage, which was a significant change to what the country was addressing before. Although their bill of rights and recent laws state that there is equality and rights for all people, issues of Xenophobia, unsafe abortion practices, educational and health-related disparities, and gender inequality are still barriers in a country where these issues are supposed to be eliminated and upheld by the law (Crush, 2001).
The State of South African Human Rights
Amnesty International (2017), a nongovernmental global leader in addressing and protecting human rights, has listed several domains in which South Africa is not living up to what their constitution has been created to address. Issues include: polices excessive use of force and inhumane murder (chapter 2, section 12 violation), corporate accountability in relation to housing for underserved populations (chapter 2, section 26 violation), xenophobia (chapter 2, sections 9, 20, 24, 30, & 31), women’s rights (chapter 2, sections 9 & 28), LGBTQIA discrimination and hate crimes (chapter 2, sections 9, 18, & 24), and educational inequalities (specifically those with disabilities) (chapter 2, sections 9 & 29). Amnesty International also reports that those who try to address these issues of inequality and human rights are also subjected to violence and being arrested, which is also a violation of inhumane treatment and freedom of speech/expression laws. Human Rights Watch (2017), another nongovernmental organization, further discusses how South Africa has been excluding those with disabilities from education, as well as how lack of protection of queer individuals is showing that hate crimes are normalized within the country, and hosts a plethora of material in relation to which individuals, racially, suffer the most with these human rights violations.Â Many of the discriminatory actions that South Africa is continuing to perpetuate on its citizens are factors as to why the country suffers in multiple areas, and that education, in particular, can be one of the vital ways to fix many of the issues that the country faces.
Analysis of South African Human Rights
According to Mapp (2014), the continent of Africa makes up 13 seats of the United Nations (UN) and, although the United Nations and other countries and organizations have had some say in what has been happening in South Africa in terms of human rights violations, there is not much these countries can do to enforce them because the United Nations has very little power in the enforcement department; rather, it is up to South Africa to realize their flaws and return to what they vowed to protect when the constitution was redesigned with help from other nations. Activism and speaking out against injustices are normally a great way to voice opinions and create radical changes when they are heavily needed, however, with the stressful security climate of the country and the harm being done to civilians who do speak out mixed with the complete marginalization of the those most affected in the country, South Africa will need to rely on the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International to make significant strides in the right direction. As Mapp described in their textbook (2014), “All people should be equal under the law and should have equal opportunities to develop their potential” (p.23), and South Africa can make the shift from making empty governmental promises to working with others to cultivate the safe and nurturing environment for all of those they had promised to serve.
Amnesty International. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2017, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/south-africa/
Assembly, C. (1996). Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Cape Town.
Assembly, U. G. (1948). Universal declaration of human rights. UN General Assembly.
Constitution, U. S. (1789). Constitution of the United States. Accessed 28 March 2017.
Crush, J. (2001). The dark side of democracy: migration, xenophobia and human rights in South Africa. International Migration, 38(6), 103-133.
Human Rights Watch. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2017, from https://www.hrw.org/
Mapp, S. C. (2014). Human rights and social justice in a global perspective: An introduction to international social work. Oxford University Press, USA.
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