Know Your Rights

When we are born, we know what we want straight away. We know we want a nice hug and love from the people we are close to and we know we don’t want to stay hungry. We know that we want all of this from our family and friends. But what we want isn’t always what we get. And that is why it is important that you learn from a young age, what your rights and responsibilities are.

I am a child and do not want to be hurt. Are there laws that have been written to make sure that I am not hurt? What are they?

Yes, children do need special rights because they are vulnerable people. “Vulnerable” means that people need to work extra hard to make sure that you do not get hurt. That is why the Constitution was written to protect all of us.

The South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights (Section 28) talks about the rights that children have:

  • You should be given a name when you are born and you should be looked after and become part of a family.
  • You should not have to work whilst you are small as this could make you tired and sick (this includes being made to beg on the side of the road).
  • Even if you have done something very bad and the police need to arrest you, you should not be put in jail. If you are put in a jail, it should be for a very short while and it should not be with people that are older than 18.
  • You must have shelter (somewhere dry and comfortable to sleep).
  • If you are sick, you must be able to see a doctor and get medicine that will make you better.
  • You must have food to eat so that you aren’t hungry.

There are other rights that are for everybody (adults and children).

  • You are equal to everyone else. This means that you must be treated the same as someone who is white, black, man, woman, short or tall.
  • You have the right to live. This means that nobody is allowed to kill you and if they do, they must be punished.
  • You have the right to freedom and security. This means that nobody is allowed to put you in jail for no reason or to stop you from moving around. If you do have to go to jail, this right also means that nobody should hit you or hurt you in any way.
  • Slavery and forced labour are not allowed. Nobody can make you work when you are young.
  • You have the right to privacy, which means if you want to be left alone, you have the right to do this.
  • You have the right to think what you want, to say what you want and nobody can deny you this right. But remember that this does not mean that you can say horrible things about other people as that would not be nice.
  • Everyone has the right to good and comfortable housing. Nobody can come to your house and throw you out unless the court has said they can do this.
  • Everyone has the right to all basic health. This means that if you are ill, you have the right to see a doctor and get medicine. All people should also be able to get food and water to keep them healthy.

Having these rights in the Constitution, means that if they are not respected, it is against the law. Remember that it doesn’t mean you can do what you want when you want.

Just remember to treat people as you want them to treat you and that respecting other people’s rights is as important as them respecting your rights. If you would like Legal Help on Child Rights visit Legal Aid. Legal Aid SA works with Childline South Africa in matters where children’s rights are violated