Lawyers for Human Rights has six programme areas that focus on promoting and protecting rights of the marginalised in post-apartheid South Africa.

Gender Equality Programme

The Gender Equality Programme pursues systemic remedies for gender-based violence and discrimination in South Africa and the region. It also provides capacity and technical expertise to other LHR programmes. The programme serves women and girls, and LGBTIQ+ communities.


The Gender Equality Programme uses a combination of strategic impact litigation, advocacy, and policy and law reform efforts. The programme serves women and girls, because they are disproportionately affected by sexual, domestic, and other violence. The programme also serves LGBTIQ+ communities who are often subject to violence and discrimination, because we understand that “gender” is diverse and non-binary.

We approach gender-based violence and discrimination from a systemic perspective, and take on cases, projects, and activities that:

  • Promote access to information for women, girls, and the LGBTIQ community about how the justice system works;
  • Hold state institutions accountable for their legal duty to prevent and combat gender-based violence and discrimination;
  • Advocate for the ongoing availability of support services for victims of violence and discrimination;
  • Ensure that government role-players coordinate and collaborate properly with each other, and civil society, for better implementation of important laws and policies;
  • Ensure access to well-functioning complaints mechanisms, for when systems fail.

The Gender Equality Programme is based in our Cape Town office, but works all over South Africa.

To get in touch with the Gender Equality Programme, email Sanja Bornman (Head of Programme) or call the Cape Town LHR office on 021 424 8561.

Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme/Statelessness

LHR established the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme (RMRP) in 1996. Walk-in law clinics provide legal advice and representation, to ensure due process for asylum seekers and refugees. The programme also builds networks and is part of the social justice movement to combat xenophobia through engagement and education at community level. We advocate for the prevention of xenophobia, and work to promote access to protection for asylum seekers and refugees.

Strategic Litigation Programme

Strategic Litigation Programme litigates strategic and public interest cases that have the potential to improve the law and make a difference in peoples’ lives. The programme is active in its own litigation projects, as well as in supporting the litigation of LHR’s other programmes.

Penal Reform Programme

South Africa’s prisons and penal system have been plagued by grave concerns for years despite their being robust and progressive legislation protecting the rights of accused persons and sentenced offenders. The Penal Reform Programme is a response to the growing need for the protection and fulfilment of such rights. We seek to achieve this through strategic litigation, research and advocacy.

Land and Housing Programme

The Land and Housing Programme aims to protect the constitutional property rights of all disadvantaged and vulnerable people in South Africa. The programme is a leading advocate in efforts to address failed land reform programs, land claims, developing common law and ownership, regularising legal entities holding land, communal land and mining issues, large scale evictions, and other property rights.

Environmental Rights Programme

The Environmental Rights Programme focuses on environmental justice for marginalised communities and individuals. It seeks to promote and enforce the constitutional environmental right, as well as a just distribution of environmental benefits and burdens in our society more generally.