Why Love Our Constitution?

Top 10 Reasons to Love Our Constitution

  1. It protects you. If it were not for the constitution, you could be arrested for almost anything. You might not realise it, but each and every day you are free in ways that were unimaginable 25 years ago.
  2. Our children’s rights are the best in the world.The section on children in our constitution has higher standards than the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  3. It’s practical. Imagine if one group decided on which rights everyone else got to have? There’s no other way to cope in a diverse society where everyone has a different idea about the way we should live.
  4. It’s fair. Everyone has the right to practice their own culture, religion and traditions as long as these don’t violate the rights of others.
  5. It’s advanced. It includes rights that aren’t mentioned in other constitutions, like children and the environment. Our constitution is studied around the world because it’s considered so advanced.
  6. It gives us freedom. We can tell jokes about anything we like – in many countries, you can be jailed for insulting the president or the king.
  7. It’s accessible. Nobody enjoys more rights just because they’re rich and powerful. We’re all equal before the law.
  8. It carries legal weight. If you think your rights are being violated, you have several options listed here. That’s the point of We The People: to educate you – because if you don’t know what your rights are, you can’t stand up for them.
  9. Votes are more powerful than tanks.The army does not have the power to change the government because our constitution regards the votes of ordinary people as the most important deciding factor.
  10. It represents the people of South Africa at our best. We all know we don’t always achieve the standards spelled out in the constitution, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to reach them.

Why does Ruth Bader Ginsburg like the South African constitution so much?

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa,” says Ginsburg, whom President Clinton nominated to the court in 1993. “That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. … It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the U.S. Constitution.”

What makes the post-apartheid document, which came into effect in 1997, so unique, is its inclusion of positive rights. In addition to freedom from discrimination -- including on the basis of sexual orientation, disability or religion -- and freedom of speech, under chapter two of the constitution, South Africans have the right to "make decisions concerning reproduction," "form a political party," or "form and join a trade union."

Ginsburg is not alone in her admiration of the South African model. Cass Sunstein, the legal scholar who current runs the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has called it ''the most admirable constitution in the history of the world.'" Though given Sunstein's own reputation among Tea Partiers, I'm guessing we won't hear him speaking up on Ginsburg's behalf during an election year.