Professor Lillian Artz is the Director of the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU). She has published extensively on domestic violence, sexual offences, incarcerated women and women’s rights to freedom and security in Africa. She has worked on criminal justice and public health care reform in Southern and East Africa for over 20 years. Her current project work includes research on female offenders in prisons and psychiatric settings, vulnerable populations in places of detention, the epidemiology and prevalence of child sexual abuse, exposure to coercive sexual experiences amongst HIV testing populations, torture prevention in places of detention, including the establishment of National Protective Mechanisms to prevent and monitor torture (vis-à-vis OPCAT) in East Africa, as well as the medico-legal management of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence in conflict-affected, post-conflict and transitional African states. She has worked on the ground on gender-based violence and torture prevention projects in countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia, and Ethiopia and on the development of medico-legal and victim support services in South Sudan and Pakistan. Formerly the Vice President of the Criminological and Victimological Society of Southern Africa, she will now take up the role as the first female Chief Editor of Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology (est. 1988) in 2017. Artz has worked as a technical consultant to a wide range of parliamentary structures, law commissions, criminal justice institutions and international donors in Southern, Central and East Africa. Her evidence-based contributions to law and policy reform, as well as the development of social justice projects in the African region, have earned her a number of awards, including a National Department of Science and Technology “Women in Science Distinguished Researcher Award” (2013) as well as the University of Cape Town’s first “Social Responsiveness Award” (2009). She is an elected member and fellow of the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation – which holds consultative status at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and the Council of Europe – and is a member of a number of international policing and security networks, such as the Global Law Enforcement and Public Health (LEPH) Research Network and the African Security Sector Network.
Alex trained as a medical doctor and medical sociologist at the University of Gottingen, Germany. She is interested in employing social science theory to understand health challenges and health and criminal justice system responses, particularly around gender (identity) and sexual orientation. Her recent publications focus on improving access to healthcare for sexual and gender minority individuals and developing competency frameworks around sexual orientation and gender identity for health professions education. She currently leads the first-ever regional research project to assess the prevalence of mental health concerns among sexual and gender minority populations in Southern and East Africa, a collaborative project with over 20 NGOs from 12 countries. Other projects of hers include analyses of the law and policy frameworks governing adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Southern Africa, investigations into the provision of gender-affirming care for transgender individuals in South Africa, and a comparative analysis of how LGBTI health-related topics are taught in health professions education in South Africa and Malawi. Alex has worked as a technical consultant to the Ministry of Health of Swaziland and the World Health Organisation, and currently works with the South African National AIDS Council and the World Psychiatric Association to develop competency guidelines for healthcare professionals on sex, sexual and gender diversity.
Dr Aisling Heath — Senior Researcher
Dr Aisling Heath has a PhD in Sociology with her doctoral thesis specialising in peace building, ethnic conflict management and the sociology of post-conflict countries. She is currently the senior researcher on a three year project which aims to improve case outcomes for sexual offences survivors across three provinces within three Sexual Offences Courts. As part of this project she has been interviewing CSO, court actors, health professionals and support staff in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal as well as engaging national stakeholders at the NPA, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Judiciary. Her research interests include the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, the impact of domestic violence on children and the role of child protection systems within the justice system and schools.
Talia Meer completed a BA in Political Science at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2007, and an MA in Development Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada in 2010. She began working as a researcher at the GHJRU in 2011. Her central research interests centre on identity, intersectionality and violence. Her work at the Unit primarily involves public health and criminal justice responses to survivors of gender-based violence, including survivors with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities; and gender, sexuality and gender-based violence education for adults and teenagers. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Sociology focusing on gendered experiences of urban public space.
Kristen holds a BA (Hons) in Women’s and Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey (2008) and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Cape Town (UCT) (2013). Kristen’s expertise is in sexual health and reproductive justice. She comes from a background of direct service in the NGO sector and has worked in research at UCT since 2012 with the Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research and the Women’s Health Research Unit. She joined the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit in August 2015. In her spare time, Kristen co-organises the End Abortion Stigma Initiative in Cape Town. Her research interests include termination of pregnancy, abortion stigma, and healthcare access for sexual and gender minority people.
Vuyelwa Mehlomakulu is currently pursuing her PhD through the University of Cape Town with the department of Psychiatry and Mental Health on the topic of assessing HIV-related stigma in South Africa. Vuyelwa has over ten years of experience working in HIV research. In the past, she has worked in the Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Unit at the Human Sciences Research Council and as a Senior Scientist in the Health Systems Unit at the Medical Research Council. Her research interests include gender and health and psychological impacts of the burden of disease.
Mina has a master's degree in Biomedical Engineering, in February 2016 through the Science and Research Branch of Islamic Azad University. She is currently completing her master's degree in Public Health at University of Cape Town with the Health Economics Division. Her thesis focuses on gender inequalities in access to TB health services in South Africa. At the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, she is assisting with a project on the mental health and well-being of LGBTI people in Southern and East Africa. Other research interests include health economics, gender-based health inequalities, provider networks and access, integration of mental and physical health services financing and delivery.
Millicent Ngubane - NRF Intern
BSS UKZN, BSocSci Hons Industrial Psychology UKZN
Millicent is the first NRF Intern appointed to join the GHJRU. She completed her Bachelor’s degree and BSoc Sci Hons in Industrial Psychology at UKZN and her Honours Research project was on The Barriers Preventing Women’s Progress in Engineering-a systematic review of the literature. Following her honours degree completion she could not secure employment in her field right away and gained herself some experience within the retail industry. Thereafter, she worked as a medico-legal consultant for Riverwalk Buitendach, conducting intake interviews with clients who were involved in motor/pedestrian vehicle accidents, administering psychometric tests and typing reports with projections for pre and post morbid state of the clients. Her research interests heightened when she became a research assistant for one of the UKZN lecturers in her study that she conducted on vulture conservation. They collected data first hand from the nature/game reserves and the surrounding communities interviewing the managers, community liaisons, traditional leaders as well as the common members of the communities, she also transcribed data. Within the unit she is assisting in the project of strengthening local governance to improve gender-based violence; she has familiarised herself with all the communities that are the main focus in the project, getting all the local reports on how the community responds to violence and put up together a small review on that. She will also be transcribing data. She is determined to being one of the people bringing about change in other people’s lives, particularly women and children who suffered abuse in various ways. She is now clustered with so many Master’s Degree choices to pursue. But she believes that Public Health is the excellent first step from here with the focus on environmental health and social & behavioural sciences which will also enable her to work with people from the deepest rural areas, first in and around Africa and later reaching out to all, worldwide. She looks forward to learning more other things within the unit.