Prof Lillian Artz — Director
BA SFU; BA (Hons) MA Cape Town; PhD Queen’s University Belfast


Lillian is the director of the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU) in the Division of Forensic Medicine and is a professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town. She has worked in the in areas of domestic violence, sexual offences, incarcerated and institutionalised women, and women’s rights to freedom and security in Africa for almost 30 years. Lillian has worked as a technical consultant to a wide range of national human rights institutions, international development agencies and justice systems on law and policy reform, including the training and capacity-development of criminal justice personnel in Southern, Central and East Africa. Key projects have focused on female and other vulnerable populations in prisons and psychiatric settings, working with local governance structures to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, the prevention of torture and ill-treatment places of detention, and the medico-legal management of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence in conflict-affected, post-conflict and transitional African states. 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. She was a co-PI on South Africa’s first national prevalence study on child sexual abuse and maltreatment and is a Senior Technical Advisor for the research component of What Works 2 which focuses on supporting the scale-up, mainstreaming and innovation of projects across three priority regions, including Asia, North Africa and the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. She is currently the Editor in Chief of Acta Criminologica: African Journal of Criminology and Victimology.

Follow Lillian on ResearchGate.

Harsha Gihwala – Senior Research Officer
LLB University of Cape Town


Harsha is a Research Officer at the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit (UCT). Her areas of interest include: access to justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence; crimino-legal research; and the development of law and policy that best serves those who have experienced incidences of violence against women. Before joining the GHJRU (UCT), she completed her practical vocational training at the Women’s Legal Centre, a feminist public interest legal centre.

Harsha holds an LLB from the University of Cape Town, and is currently completing an LLM specialising in Criminology, Law and Society, with a dissertation focusing on sentencing in South African rape cases.

Nasreen Solomons - Research Officer
LLB University of Cape Town, LLM University of Cape Town


Nasreen is a Research Officer at the Unit, conducting research in the area of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Before joining the Unit, she worked as an attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) leading its SRHR programme. Nasreen previously also worked as a researcher for WLC while tutoring in the Department of Private Law at UCT; and conducted research for the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at UCT, working on its AfricanLii projects. She served her contract of community service at the Legal Resources Centre, as a Bertha Justice Fellow, at their offices in Cape Town.

Nasreen holds a BA degree in English, History and Philosophy; an Honours degree in Historical Studies; and an LLB from UCT. She is currently completing an LLM by dissertation, focusing on Refugee Law; and is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa.

Dr Leoba Nyathi - Junior Research Fellow
PhD Gender Studies, MPH - University of Venda


Dr Leoba Nyathi is a Junior Research Fellow in the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit, bringing her expertise and passion to the forefront of her work. She holds a master's degree in public health and a PhD in Gender Studies which she attained from the University of Venda. Prior to her current role, Leoba served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Western Cape, where she focused on examining the contribution of family dynamics to social cohesion. This experience enriched her understanding of the multifaceted factors that shape society and reinforced her commitment to promoting inclusivity and equitable environments. A dedicated advocate for gender equality and social justice, Leoba is driven by the mission to eradicate gender-based violence in the workplace, particularly for women in STEM fields. She is currently working on a study that shines a spotlight on gender-based violence (GBV) against women in the field of science and through her research, Leoba aims to uncover the specific dynamics and barriers that perpetuate GBV in women scientists, while also advocating for comprehensive solutions and support systems. Recognising the transformative power of research, she firmly believes in its capacity to catalyse positive change in society. Her work is guided by the pursuit of interdisciplinary collaboration, ensuring that her research contributes to both academic discourse and practical implementation. Through her endeavours, she strives to make a lasting impact on society by fostering positive change, one step at a time.

Dr. Mahlogonolo Thobane - Senior Research Consultant
PhD in Criminology- UNISA


thobane Dr Thobane permanently employed by College of Law, Department of Criminology and Security Science at the University of South Africa (UNISA) as a Senior Lecturer. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences: Psychology degree from the University of Pretoria (UP); BA (Honours) degrees in Criminology and Psychology from UP and UNISA respectively. She also holds a Master’s degree in Criminology as well as a Doctor of Literature and Philosophy (DLitt et Phil) in Criminology. 

She is the first black President of the Criminological Society of Africa (CRIMSA), the only society for Criminologists and Criminal Justice professionals in South Africa; and other African countries. In 2018, Dr. Thobane was awarded the UNISA Vision Keepers Prize (2018-2020) for the research project titled: An exploration of the impact of sociocultural norms on the surge of gender-based violence in South Africa. In July 2019, the GHJRU contracted her a Senior Researcher Consultant position for a 5-year Local Responses to Improve Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Project led by the Centre for Communication Impact (CCI) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This came on the back of her Vision Keepers project. Dr. Thobane is one of the 10 young international Criminologists who won a research paper award, sponsored by the International Society of Criminology (ISC) as well as the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNDOC), at the 2019 International Congress of Criminology. 

 Her research aims to centralise the African voice, and ‘ways of knowing’, in criminology ideologies. Her research interests are bank related violent crimes (i.e., cash-in-transit heists), gender-based violence, female criminality, critical criminology, indigenous research methods and correctional studies. Given her interest in gender based violence issues, she founded a Non-Profit Organisation, Mu Duka (212-833 NPO) in 2018, which promotes holistic and intersectoral approaches (involving various government departments, the private sector and non-government organisations) to combat the scourge of gender based violence in South Africa.