Human Rights Day 2020

National and public holidays in South Africa Public Holiday in South Africa

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

When is Human Rights Day?

How long until Human Rights Day?
This holiday next takes place in 301 Days.
Dates of
Year Weekday Date
2021 Sunday
2020 Saturday
2019 Thursday
2018 Wednesday
1 Day
Marks the establishment of the Human Rights Commission and Sharpeville Day

Human Rights Day is a national holiday in South Africa that is always celebrated on 21 March.

The holiday commemorates the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

History of Human Rights Day

The aim of the SAHRC is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA.

The SAHRC was launched on 21 March 1996, marking exactly 35 years after the events of 21 March 1960 when anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville were gunned down by police.

The Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952 controlled the movement of Africans to urban areas and required all Africans to carry a reference book on them at all times.

Failure to produce the reference book on demand by the police, was a punishable offence. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) proposed an anti-Pass campaign to start on 21 March 1960. All African men were to take part in the campaign without their passes and present themselves for arrest.

Campaigners gathered at police stations in townships near Johannesburg where they were dispersed by police. At the Sharpeville police station a scuffle broke out. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded.

In apartheid South Africa this day became known as Sharpeville Day.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

In recognition of the events on this day, the United Nations has declared that 21 March each year is 'The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination'. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

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