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 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 been working in research at UCT since 2012 with the Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research, the Women’s Health Research Unit, and most recently joined the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit in August 2015. In her spare time, Kristen co-organizes the monthly feminist discussion group, CORE, as well as the End Abortion Stigma Initiative in Cape Town. She is also training as a full-spectrum doula. Her research interests include termination of pregnancy and maternal health and rights.
Harsha Gihwala — Junior Researcher
LLB University of Cape Town
Harsha completed her LLB at the University of Cape Town in 2014. In 2015 she began her LLM at UCT specialising in Criminology, Victimology and Forensics. Her master’s thesis focuses on unpacking some of the intricacies that are found in South African sexual violence judgments. Her work at the Unit so far involves the interpretation of rape sentencing judgments, and soon, around improving the functioning of three pilot Sexual Offences Courts in South Africa. Her research interests include gender violence, criminal justice, and human rights.