welcome to The Navi Pillay Research Group

About Us

Dr Navanethem “Navi” Pillay is a UKZN alumna, whose pioneering work has been path-forming in securing the rights of the subjugated under apartheid South Africa and in confronting crimes against humanity, mass atrocity and genocide through the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court.  Her contributions, including through her work as former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, developing a normative framework for international justice, including the principles and practices for addressing gender-based crimes, have shaped and shifted global discourse, policy and practice pertaining to human rights and justice in our time.

In honouring Dr Pillay’s formidable, inventive legacy and tireless agency, colleagues within the UKZN School of Law have come together to constitute a Research Group, the Navi Pillay Research Group (NPRG), as envisaged by Section 5.2.4 of UKZN’s Policy on Institutes, Centres and Units

Purpose and objectives

In recognising Dr Pillay’s contribution to the promotion of human rights, we have established the NPRG, to advance human rights and social justice research and advocacy in a broad and innovative range of spheres.  The purpose behind the NPRG is to establish an interdisciplinary, collaborative entity to support research, education, policy and advocacy interventions that respond to contemporary social issues. 

The NPRG seeks to address emergent issues of race, class, gender and disability in post-Apartheid South Africa. Critical issues demanding research and engagement include those relating to land reform and economic justice, decolonization and persistent forms of discrimination, and human rights violations (particularly those impacting on vulnerable categories of people), in their various manifestations, including the ever increasing use of the internet/cyber space as a contested area of abuse and protection. 

The objectives of the NPRG include:

  • To create a platform for existing social justice initiatives and community outreach interventions undertaken by School of Law colleagues and students
  • To develop new modules, at under and postgraduate levels, to further research and knowledge production in identified fields
  • To actively facilitate academic research and postgraduate studies within these fields
  • To support policy advocacy initiatives to address systemic shortcomings in state policy response and implementation
  • To support publishing and the convening of learning events to contribute towards debate and knowledge-production in these fields

Founder and Patron

Click edit button to find more about Dr Navanethem “Navi” Pillay

Research areas of interest

Our research interventions are designed to analyse instances of human rights violations and social injustice, to contribute towards knowledge generation on these issues and support appropriate advocacy interventions in response.  Rather than being reactive, our research is geared towards alerting policy makers to the need for prevention measures, to address gaps in policy framing and implementation.  These measures seek to raise awareness, support existing community advocacy initiatives, and improve state accountability for and response mechanisms to rights violations. 


Further , NPRG’s research interest areas are intended to complement and consolidate already existing initiatives within the School of Law, in the form of postgraduate studies, the publishing of scholarly articles, support for social justice networks and their community outreach initiatives, and other measures we intend to expand on.  Our proposed methodology in this regard is to capacitate staff; design curricula, templates and introduce modules; and establish research teams to drive research into and advocacy responses to the focal areas listed below. 

The objectives of the NPRG include:

Children’s Rights

The group will advance this expertise on issues such as access to justice in our courts for children, including child justice; and legal responses to harmful cultural practices; child sexual abuse responses and prosecution; monitoring of children’s rights by chapter 9 institutions; and access to education for children.

Gender-based violence

Building on UKZN’s existing undergraduate course on International Criminal Law, and working in partnership with the African Ombudsmen Research Centre at the UKZN School of Law, the NPRG will foster research and postgraduate study in relation to political conflict, atrocity crimes and accountability. 

Social cohesion, hate crimes and hate speech

South Africa’s track record with hate crimes, which are bias motivated crimes such as rape, murder and theft (for example on the basis of xenophobia, homophobia, racism or sexism); and the increasingly publicised incidences of hate speech, has resulted in the drafting of a bill, the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.

Social justice and the Internet

Our vision is to motivate research that takes a closer look at the broader evolutionary dynamics that have been spurred by digital technologies and the particular lines of action, be they existing or absent, on the micro-level.The continued introduction of digital technologies also evokes the need to continuously observe the impact digital technologies have on prominent societal issues such as inequality, poverty and access to justice.

Prosecution of apartheid-era crimes

Building on UKZN’s existing undergraduate course on International Criminal Law, and working in partnership with the African Ombudsmen Research Centre at the UKZN School of Law, the NPRG will foster research and postgraduate study in relation to political conflict, atrocity crimes and accountability. 


The rights of persons with disabilities is a chronically neglected area for research and advocacy by lawyers in South Africa. Usually considered a charitable or welfare problem, the strong links between a human rights paradigm and implementation of legal norms, domestically, regionally and internationally, cannot continue to be overlooked. 

Homelessness and the right to adequate housing

The School of Law Street Law programme has entered into a partnership with the Denis Hurley Centre, a Centre established to provide dignity, support and take up policy advocacy issues relating to homeless and refugee communities in eThekwini Municipality.

Informal economy and own account workers
The NPRG has inroads into the South African Law Reform Commission’s project committee in relation to maternity benefits for informal economy workers, and the National Economic Development and Labour Council’s (NEDLAC) interventions in pursuit of ILO Recommendation 204: Concerning the Transition from the Informal Economy to the Formal Economy.


Professor Managay Reddi
Ms Janine Hicks
Ms Janine Hicks
Mr Adrian Bellengere
Mr • Adrian Bellengere
Ms Devarasi Bellengere
Ms Willene Holness
Ms Willene Holness
Dr Freddy Mnyongani
Ms Meda Couzens:

Contact details

  • School of Law, Howard College
    University of KwaZulu-Natal
    King George V Avenue
    Durban 4041
    South Africa