Protection of human rights in South Africa: public awareness and perceptions
South Africa is a new democracy with a progressive Constitution and a Bill of Rights that contains all human rights that are universally accepted and recognized. The purpose of this article is to analyse the results of a research study aimed at determining the level of public awareness and the perceptions regarding the protection and enjoyment of such rights. To that end, the survey sought information on public knowledge or awareness of the Bill of Rights, violation or protection of various types of rights, and awareness and perceptions regarding human rights institutions. It was found that many South Africans are unaware of the existence of the Bill of Rights and that the majority of South Africans blame the government for most human rights violations. The results of the survey also show that people are not happy with the level of protection of their rights, particularly socio-economic rights. It is also clear that public knowledge of the existence of human rights institutions and the work they do is severely limited. It is concluded that there is a serious need to educate the public, not only on the Bill of Rights and the processes and the mechanisms of its enforcement, but also on the existence and functions of the various human rights institutions. Only then will the Bill of Rights serve the true purpose for which it was intended.