What Are My Rights?

How are you protected?

Throughout the world, children and teenagers are seen as a group that needs special protection. That is because you are young and should remain unharmed until you are older and more able to cope with life and what it throws at you. But not all people agree that young people are special and should be laughing instead of crying and learning instead of doing nothing, and have times for play and relaxation.

These laws regarding children are clear and should be obeyed. Much like rules that your parents have in the house to make sure that you don’t just do what you want, the government has rules (laws) used to govern the country. These rules and laws set limits and outline exactly what you can and can’’t do.

As teenagers, it is very important that you start learning about your rights and responsibilities NOW. This means getting to know how the law protects you, why you should follow the law and setting boundaries for how you want to be treated and what is acceptable treatment of others.

Rights & Responsibilities

Our Constitution is the most important document in our country. It gives us rights and responsibilities that we are entitled to as citizens of South Africa.


The Constitution is a group of principles that contains the highest law of the land. These principles must be respected and obeyed by all.

Bill of Rights

Chapter 2 of the Constitution contains the Bill of Rights. This is the section of the Constitution that contains fundamental rights and freedoms that are protected by the Constitution. They are also known as Human Rights.

Human rights are the right that every human being has, regardless of race, gender or background. By being included in the Constitution it means that they are guaranteed to everyone and cannot easily be taken away. These rights may only be restricted if it is in the interest of society to do and if the restriction is reasonable.

Section 7 – Rights

The Bill of Rights is the foundation upon which the new South Africa is based. The Bill of Rights must be protected and respected by the State and all its citizens.
Section 8 – Application

All people will benefit from the Bill of Rights. It is enforced against the state and ordinary people by our courts.

Section 9 – Equality

Everybody is equal before the law and entitled to enjoy rights and freedoms under the law. The state cannot discriminate against you whether you are white, black, man, woman, gay, married, pregnant, blind, disabled, young, old, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, non-believer, and English, Afrikaans, Zulu etc. speaking person. However, laws can be made to promote people who were unfairly discriminated against in the past.

Section 10 – Human Dignity

Everyone’s dignity should be respected.

Section 11 – Life

Everyone has the right to life.

Section 12 – Freedom and Security of the Person

Everyone’s freedom of movement is protected in the Bill of Rights, and therefore, nobody may be detained without good reason. IF you are detained, you will be entitled to a trial before a court of law. Nobody should be tortured, treated or punished in a manner which is cruel. Nobody may control you or your body.

Section 13 – Slavery and Forced Labour

Slavery and forced labour is not allowed. (This does not mean that a job at the local shoe shop during summer holidays is slavery and forced labour.)

Section 14 – Privacy

Everyone has the right to be left alone. This includes that right not to be searched, and have your possessions taken away from you without your consent. You have the right to communicate freely without interference, unless a court decides otherwise.

Section 15 – Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion

You have a right to practice whatever religion or belief you wish and to have your thoughts and ideas protected. The state must treat all religions equally and not support one religion over another.

Section 16 – Freedom of Expression

You have the right to think what you want, to say what you want and nobody can deny you this right. However, this right does not allow you to spread hatred between people of different races, religions and sexes.

Section 17 – Assembly, Demonstration, Picket and Petition

You have the right to organise unarmed peaceful meetings, picket and present petitions, regarding a particular issue to whomever you wish.

Section 18 – Freedom of Association

You are allowed to belong to any organisation of your choice and to mix with anybody of your choice.

Section 19 – Political Rights

You have the right to form and join a political party of your choice. You have the right to vote freely, without intimidation, in an election and to stand for an election.

Section 20 – Citizenship

Nobody can take away your right to be a citizen of South Africa.

Section 21 – Freedom of Movement and Residence

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and to leave the country. As a South African you are allowed to travel in and out of South Africa. You cannot be denied a passport without a valid reason.

Section 22 – Freedom of Trade, Occupation and Profession

Everyone has the right to choose a job of their choice and to trade freely. However, this right may be regulated by law.

Section 23 – Labour Relations

Workers must be treated fairly by their employers. A worker has the right to strike and join a trade union of his/her choice. The employers can also form their own organisations like workers form trade unions. Both workers and employers can participate in these organisations of their choice.

Section 24 – Environment

You have a right to a clean and healthy environment.

Section 25 – Property

Nobody can take away your property without a valid reason. If your property is taken away, you are entitled to compensation based on what your property is presently worth. Anybody or any community who has been dispossessed of their property under Apartheid laws shall be entitled to claim the land back or be paid for the value of that land. The government should take all necessary steps within its available limited resources to give all people equal access to land.

Section 26 – Housing

Everyone has the right to be given access to adequate housing. Nobody can evict you from your property without a court order.

Section 27 – Health Care, Food, Water and Social Security

You have the right to all basic health care. Everyone should have access to food and water. That state must take reasonable steps to ensure that these rights are secured.

Section 28 – Children

Every child has the right to be named and cared for by a family. No child should be allowed to perform work that will risk the child’s well-being. A child may only be detained if it is the last resort, and only for a short while. Children under the age of 18 years should be kept separately from adults in detention. Children have the right to shelter, health care and to be properly fed.

Section 29 – Education

Everyone has the basic right to education including education for adults. The state must take all necessary steps to ensure these rights. Everyone has the right to be taught in the language of his/her choice where possible. Private schools may be established for a specific purpose and at their own costs, but cannot deny a person access on the basis of race.

Section 30 – Language and Culture

Everyone can speak in the language of his/her choice and practice their culture, provided it does not interfere with anybody else’s rights.

Section 31 – Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities

All communities are allowed to practice their own culture, religion and language, provided it does not interfere with the Bill of Rights.

Section 32 – Access to Information

Information held by the government or any other person which affects your rights, must be given to you.

Section 33 – Just Administrative Action

You have the right to be treated fairly and you must be given written reasons if you are treated unfairly.

Section 34 – Access to Courts

Everybody has a right to have their legal problems resolved in court.

Section 35 – Arrest, Detained and Accused Persons

When you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and should not be forced to make any statement. The police must bring you before a court within 48 hours of your arrest. If you are not released, valid reasons should be given for your continual detention. You are entitled to a state lawyer who will represent you during your trial in court. Whilst you are in the care of the police, you should be treated with respect and dignity. Your family is entitled to visit you while you are in jail. You cannot be charged for the same crime twice. Remember, you are innocent until the state proves you guilty and even then, you can appeal against the conviction and sentence.

Section 36 – Limitation of Rights

All rights contained in the Bill of Rights can be limited. The limitation of these rights must be reasonable, fair and in line with the principles on which our democratic country is based, namely equality, freedom and dignity.

Section 37 – State of Emergency

The State can only declare a Sate of Emergency by an Act of Parliament and when our country is endangered by war, disaster and disorder. The state of emergency cannot be declared for longer than 21 days unless the National Assembly decides otherwise. Our courts can decide if the State of Emergency is valid or not.

Section 38 – Enforcement of Rights

All the rights contained in the Bill of Rights can be enforced by the high courts and constitutional court. Any person can bring an action to these courts in his/her own name or non behalf of somebody else.

Section 39 – Interpretation of the Bill of Rights

When interpreting the Bill of Rights, the court must remember to promote the values of democracy, dignity and equality. All acts passed by parliament must promote the Bill of Rights, but the Bill of Rights must also take account of customary and common law.

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

Download/read more about Law & Policy here