Apply to Join
Nov 20, 2019

Victory for transgender rights & a fight for life

Victory for Jade & the transgender community

On Monday 23 September 2019, the Equality Court in the Western Cape handed down judgment in the matter of September vs Subramoney N.O and Others. Ms. September is a transgender woman currently serving a prison sentence inside a male correctional facility. While incarcerated, prison officials denied her the right to express her gender through her hairstyle, dress, and use of small amounts of make-up. She has also been subject to verbal abuse and harassment from prison officials, and at one stage placed in segregated confinement after trying to express her gender.

Ms September sought relief from the High Court for the violation of her fundamental constitutional rights to equality and human dignity, including an order that the respondents permit her to express her gender, and that her gender identity be respected and protected while incarcerated. Ms. September was represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, and her matter was heard on 26 and 27 November 2018. Gender Dynamix, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, were admitted as friends of the court.

We welcome and celebrate the judgment delivered by the Equality Court, which we believe is central to the promotion of the rights of transgender and gender diverse persons in South Africa. These classes of persons remain marginalised and ignored by the law and its application.


Lawyers for Human Rights is making an urgent appeal for assistance after a recent judgement by the Johannesburg High Court, which allowed the Helen Joseph Hospital to terminate life-saving dialysis treatment for a Johannesburg woman, Alem.

Without access to dialysis, Ms Ereselo will almost certainly die in the coming weeks. On 11 October 2019, the High Court handed down judgement in the matter of Alem v CE: Helen Joseph Hospital & Others case number 15448/19. Alem, 36, is represented by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), and is an asylum seeker from Ethiopia who has resided in South Africa for nine years. She approached LHR for assistance in April when the hospital first threatened to end her access to dialysis on the basis that she is not a South African citizen, despite being legally in the country as an asylum seeker for the last nine years, awaiting determination of her status.

“This decision amounts to a death sentence for Alem” said Jessica Lawrence, an attorney for LHR. “The underlying policy unfairly differentiates between South African citizens and asylum seekers, and is more broadly, an assault on the right to health of the poor”.

On 18 October 2019, the Helen Joseph Hospital terminated Alem’s treatment as sanctioned by the High Court, starting the clock ticking towards her death. LHR is preparing to launch additional legal proceedings shortly, in an effort to save Alem’s life. Given the lengthy nature of legal proceedings, LHR urgently appeals to other members of the private sector and individual donors to contribute to extending this life-saving treatment, pending the finalisation of the constitutional challenge.


Oct 23, 2019

Baby born to stateless mother is declared citizen

Baby David’s mom, Litha, was born and grew up stateless in South Africa. Litha’s own mother and father died before she was old enough to understand that she would be need them to prove her nationality one day. They lived between Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa and Litha doesn’t know which countries’ citizenship they had. Litha has been unable to prove her citizenship in any of these countries for 7 years.

When Litha gave birth to Baby David, the Department of Home Affairs explained that unregistered mothers cannot register their babies’ births. Litha applied for permanent residence as a stateless person in South Africa 5 years ago, but had never received a response from the Minister of Home Affairs and until she had documents, her baby, David, could not get a birth certificate.

LHR assisted her to make an application to the High Court in which she asked the court to consider her and David’s citizenship. David was already 2 years old, and Litha 27, when the High Court made a judgement declaring both Litha and David to be South African citizens by birth. Litha said: “Now I can study to become a pilot. I can dream again.”

Without pro bono legal intervention Litha would not be able to afford a court application. The generous donations of our donors have made it possible for David and Litha to come this far. Unfortunately, the Department has not yet issued David’s birth certificate. We may need to intervene once more to ensure he gets full access to his right to nationality.

Since July 2019, LHR has assisted 27 additional children in similar situations. Some of them are children whose parents are in jail and cannot accompany them to Home Affairs. As a result they are denied IDs when they turn 16 and they risk not being able to write their matric. LHR continues to intervene on these children’s behalf.

To listen to Litha and David's story follow the link below to the Institute for Statelessness and Inclusion's (ISI) podcast series. For What’s Best for Children’s Nationality, ISI has partnered with UNICEF to produce a six-part podcast series that aims to build knowledge around childhood statelessness and the right of every child to a nationality by exploring good practices. As such the series features childhood statelessness stories, challenges and successes from real-life settings. 

We thank you for your continued support to make our work possible.


Jun 24, 2019

New livers & a nationality for babies at risk

With your contribution Lawyers for Human Rights' Statelessness Project assisted 2 babies to be added to the liver donor list for life saving surgery. The babies, both approximately 1 year old, were denied life-saving treatment for liver failrue due to the fact that they did not have birth certificates. 

1 year old Lungile* was denied a birth certificate, because his South African parents could not afford the R2100 necessary for DNA tests required by the Department of Home Affairs. LHR was able to arrange urgent DNA tests and use your Global Giving donations to pay for the tests. Lungile's birth was registered and is now being processed for surgery which will save his life. 

8 month old Katleho's* mother's passport had expired shortly before her birth. The Department of Home Affairs refused to register her birth before her mother's passport was renewed. Unfortunately, her mother cannot travel to renew her passport, because Katleho needs regular treatment in preparation for the operation. She is still breastfeeding and her mother cannot travel without taking Katleho with her. Lack of a birth certificate means Katleho's mother cannot travel with her. After negotiations with Home Affairs, Katleho has been registered and is now in line to receive a liver. 

A baby with liver failure may live up to 2 years, but the longer one waits to operate on them, the weaker they get, making the surgery more likely to be fatal for the baby. The strict requirements for birth registration caused these 2 babies to be unregistered, risking their lives. LHR is working on several strategic litigation cases which will make birth registration universally accessible to all children in South Africa. 

Every child born in South Africa has the right to a birth certificate from birth. A birth certificate is crucial to establishing the child's nationality in South Africa or in the country fo their parents nationality. Section 28 of the Constitution protects every child's right to a name and a nationality from birth. 

Since our last report, LHR has advised 60 children, 24 of whom are under the age of 4. 

We thank you for your contrubution towards these childrens' lives. 

*Not their real names


WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.