Professor Willene Holness

Professor Willene Holness
Associate Professor and Academic Leader: Business Law
Howard College
Howard College Building, Suite E, Room 137


Professor Holness is a children’s and disability rights scholar, and formerly litigated with a legal NGO (law clinic) on social justice matters. She read for a Doctorate of Law with the University of Pretoria on access to justice for mothers with intellectual disabilities under the supervision of Prof Charles Ngwena. She teaches Constitutional Law, Gender and the Law and Access to Justice in the LLB programme; and in the LLM and Mphil programme on Child Care and Protection, an interdisciplinary programme; as well as the LLM Constitutional Litigation programme.

Academic qualifications

  • BA, LLB (Rhodes University)
  • LLM (UKZN) cum laude
  • LLD (UP)

Professional qualification

  • Admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa

Research Interests

  • Access to Justice,
  • Children’s Rights, and
  • Critical Disability Studies.

Membership of Professional & Other Organisations

  • Board member (director) of the Community Law and Rural Development Centre, a paralegal organisation in KwaZulu-Natal.


  • T Mthembu & W Holness (2022)‘Criteria for law reform on comprehensive sexuality education for children with disabilities in South Africa’ 10 African Disability Rights Yearbook 78-109
  • B Clark & W Holness (2022) ‘State liability in respect of a child negligently injured at an early childhood development centre: A critical assessment of BE obo JE v MEC for Social Development, Western Cape’ 139(3) South African Law Journal 491-510.
  • W Holness (2022) ‘Parent-Led Activism and Children with Disabilities in South Africa’ In Rioux M.H., Viera J., Buettgen A., Zubrow E. (eds) Handbook of Disability: Critical Thought and Social Change in a Globalizing World Springer, Singapore.
  • W Holness (2021) ‘Decriminalising vagrancy offences in Africa beyond the ACHPR’s Advisory Opinion: quo vadis?’ 5 African Human Rights Yearbook 377-400
  • W Holness (2021) ‘Hate crimes based on disability: lessons for law reform in South Africa’ 70 South African Crime Quarterly 2-22.
  • W Holness (2020) ‘eThekwini’s discriminatory by-laws: Criminalising homelessness’ 24 Law Democracy and Development 468-511
  • L Van Niekerk, D Castelijn, A Govindjee, W Holness, J Oberholster and C Grobler (2020) ‘Conceptualising disability: Health and legal perspectives related to psychosocial disability and work’ 13(1) South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 43-51
  • W Holness & S Rule (2018) ‘Legal capacity of parties with intellectual, psycho-social and communication disabilities in traditional courts in KwaZulu-Natal’ African Disability Rights Yearbook 27-59
  • W Holness (2016) ‘The invisible employee: reasonable accommodation of psychosocial disability in the South African workplace’ 32(3) South African Journal of Human Rights 510-537.
  • W Holness (2016) ‘The development and use of sign language in South African schools: the denial of inclusive education’ 4 African Disability Rights Yearbook 141-190.
  • W Holness (2016) ‘The right not to be deprived of property’ in A Govindjee (ed) Introduction to Human Rights Law (2nd edition) LexisNexis 243-260.
  • W Holness (2016) ‘Language and culture’ in A Govindjee (ed) Introduction to Human Rights Law (2nd edition) LexisNexis 197-209.
  • W Holness (2016) ‘Arrested, detained and accused persons’ in A Govindjee (ed) Introduction to Human Rights Law (2nd edition) LexisNexis 225-241.
  • W Holness (2016) ‘Employment equity and elimination of discrimination: Where are women with disabilities in the hierarchy?’ 30(1) Agenda 49-64.
  • W Holness (2015) ‘The implications of article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the state, children of parents with intellectual disabilities who are “at risk of neglect” and their parents’ 2 Stellenbosch Law Review 313-344.
  • W Holness (2014) ‘Equal recognition and legal capacity for persons with disabilities: incorporating the principle of proportionality’ 30 (2) South African Journal of Human Rights (SAJHR) 313-344.
  • W Holness & S Rule (2014) ‘Barriers to advocacy and litigation in the Equality Courts for Persons with Disabilities’ 17 (5) Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 1907-1963.
  • W Holness (2013) ‘Informed consent for sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities in the light of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ 27 Agenda 35-54.
  • W Holness (2011) ‘Equality of the graveyard: participatory democracy in housing’ 26 (1) South African Public Law 1-36.
  • W Holness (2009) ‘Constitutional right to property’ in A Govindjee & P Vrancken (eds) Introduction to Human Rights Law LexisNexis: Durban 217-228.