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

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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.

Research areas of interest

The School has expertise in children’s rights, honed over twenty years in its Child Care and Protection LLM and Master’s programme. 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. The group wishes to build on existing relationships with stakeholders such as the National Prosecuting Authority, Magistrates’ Court, Family Advocate’s Office and civil society (Refugee Social Services, Lawyers for Human Rights, National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers to name a few) to conduct applied research in these areas. The NPRG also seeks to collaborate with UKZN Law School research initiatives in relation to cyber security, to address issues relating to stalking and sexual grooming of children, as well as other child sexual offences and vulnerabilities through social media platforms.

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. 

Gender-based violence

The School of Law has supported the creation of a UKZN gender-based violence (GBV) policy and committee, to ensure UKZN discharges its responsibility to prevent and respond to GBV. In addition, the School has incubated the formation of a UKZN student chapter of Amnesty International South Africa. One of the projects initiated by this chapter relates to researching, preventing and responding to gender-based sexual violence within the UKZN community, and surrounding communities. Substantive research and policy interventions are required to gain sufficient understanding of the causal factors and extent of GBV at UKZN, appropriate prevention and response measures, best practice policy and programmatic interventions, and community awareness measures.

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 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. While this bill is laudable in some respects, such as the creation of aggravation of sentence factor where a crime is committed based on a protected characteristic or status (race, disability, sex, sexual orientation or gender-non-conforming status, social origin or other grounds), other aspects are worrying, such as the separate legislative prohibition of hate speech. This theme will focus on hate crimes and hate speech aspects, not limited to the bill. In particular, should this bill be passed, implementation of the bill will require monitoring. The research group intends making submissions to Parliament on the next call for comments on the bill and to advocate for monitoring of the implementation of this proposed law. Research on the investigation and prosecution of disability hate crime has commenced. It is hoped that this theme will build on Dr Pillay’s work inter alia, on xenophobia in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

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.

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. Other focal areas would include the protection human rights online such as freedom of expression, hate crimes, the right to privacy and surveillance, and the issues and challenges around cybersecurity and cybercrime.

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. 

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. Of particular concern are issues relating to state responsibility and access to justice in relation to apartheid era atrocities, and addressing recommendations emerging from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in this regard.  The NPRG seeks to engage with the issue of prosecution and restitution for human rights violations committed under apartheid, considering an international criminal law perspective and the implications of South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.  The NPRG is particularly interested in identifying and analysing the continuing patterns and impact of apartheid, for instance within the fields of access to justice and quality education, currently experienced as elitist privilege.

Disability

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. 

  • 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. Particularly in our courts, access to justice continues to be denied to children or adults with disabilities, including in the Children’s Courts and Sexual Offences Courts where procedures are inaccessible and where reasonable accommodation is not offered.  Traditional courts also remain difficult to access for persons with disabilities in rural areas..
  • The research group will pursue multi-disciplinary research on disability related aspects. Research on access to traditional courts, reasonable accommodation of employees with psycho-social disabilities and access to higher education has already commenced. Collaboration with stakeholders, including civil society, such as Disabled Persons Organisations is key to the work on this theme.
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.

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. Fourth year students volunteer their time running human rights workshops for these communities, and taking statements of systemic abuse of homeless people, at the hands of eThekwini Municipality “nuisance” bylaws and aggressive policing. Tales of police harassment, unlawful confiscation and destruction of property, unlawful eviction and outright abduction have emerged. The NPRG wishes to undertake research and policy advocacy interventions to support possible class action litigation and other remedial measures against the Municipality, and develop recommendations for policy reform that promotes recognition and attainment of human rights for eThekwini’s “other” citizens.

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.

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. Through these structures, and in partnership with civil society structures such as Street Net International, Asiye eTafuleni and other street traders’ associations, the NPRG seeks to undertake research and support policy advocacy measures geared towards ensuring access to maternity benefits for informal economy workers.

Researchers

Professor Managay Reddi

Professor Managay Reddi

Dean and Head of the School of Law

Mr Adrian Bellengere

Mr Adrian Bellengere

Senior Lecturer

Dr Freddy Mnyongani

Dr Freddy Mnyongani

AL Teaching and Learning

Ms Willene Holness

Ms Willene Holness

Senior Lecturer

Contact details

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