When it comes to our basic human rights, those that usually jump to mind include access to water, adequate housing, health care services, basic education, etc. Perhaps it is because these rights are easy to explain.

What about the right to dignity? Section 10 of our Constitution reads that everyone has the right to have their dignity respected and protected.

Dignity is, however, often described as ‘fluffy’ in that it is difficult to define. Many therefore argue that it cannot be seen as a right on its own and rather serves as a guide/ value when interpreting the various other human rights found in our Constitution.

In the spirit of Human Rights Month, we have assembled some of our favourite judgement quotes on dignity. 

1. In S v Dodo, concerning cruel and degrading punishment, the court raised the importance of dignity.

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2. Human dignity furthermore endorses our political rights.
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3. In the case quoted below, it was acknowledged that “dignity is a difficult concept to capture in precise terms.” Nonetheless, it was ruled that the criminalisation of sodomy impairs dignity.
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     4. The Dawood case highlighted that dignity is also a justiciable and enforceable right in itself. The court stressed that a human rights infringement can infringe more than one right. Cruel and degrading punishment infringes our right to bodily integrity as well as our right to human dignity, for example.
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 We still have a long way to go when it comes to our rights, but may the Constitution and this month encourage us to try harder.
Yours truly, Legal Hero.
www.legalhero.co.za