“Your life is already artful — waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.” — Toni Morrison.

Thato Gaffane


Civil Society

Organisation / Company

Lawyers for Human Rights


Thato Gaffane, 25, is a human rights lawyer who specialises in environmental and climate justice, business and human rights and gender equality. He works at Lawyers for Human Rights and offers free legal services to vulnerable and marginalised people. Thato has a master of laws degree in human rights law and his dissertation looked into the transgender community’s right to access healthcare to ensure they are able to live with dignity and with acceptance in society. Thato’s dissertation now forms the basis for a legal case that challenges the denial of gender affirming healthcare to a transgender client diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The case will be heard in the Johannesburg equality court. Thato says his personal experiences of belonging to a gender and sexual minority group and dealing with the hardships of discrimination motivates him. “The pain and discomfort that I experienced has motivated me to work towards creating a better world so that others don’t face the adversity that I had to face,” he says. The Constitution guides his fight for equality for others, and among other cases he is also involved in the development of a legally binding treaty at the United Nations level to regulate transnational corporations.



Bachelor of Laws, University of South Africa

Master of Laws in Human Rights Law, University of Johannesburg


I am particularly proud of my dissertation, which I completed with a distinction as part of my Master of Laws degree, supervised by Professor and Acting Justice David Bilchitz. Not only am I proud of my sustained hard work, but also the significant intellectual contribution that my academic work made to the legal discourse regarding gender affirming healthcare. Transgendered persons are a vulnerable population within an already marginalised group within society. 

My dissertation sought to develop legal arguments around access to healthcare to ensure that transgender persons are able to live a dignified life and one that supports their social and emotional well-being by fostering a sense of authenticity and acceptance, both from within the individual and from society. 

Furthermore, through completing my dissertation I was able to cultivate strong research skills, develop critical thinking, and articulate a clear and robust legal argument in a nuanced area of the law. Moreover, the experience of writing my dissertation fostered resilience and perseverance, teaching me to handle setbacks and maintain motivation during moments of great challenge. 
My dissertation was well received by the transgender community, civil society organisations, academics, and even private corporations signifying the significant contribution of my academic work.


I have had the privilege of being mentored by a team of incredible lawyers at Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), including my former principal, Jessica Lawrence, a 2023 M&G Top Young 200 alumni. The LHR has been a significant learning ground for working in the field of human rights law and a home in my journey, supporting me from my days as an intern to my current role as an attorney. Through a community of mentors at LHR, I have been provided with rich guidance, diverse perspectives, and collective wisdom, empowering me to achieve my fullest potential through shared experiences and support. 
Additionally, I have received immense support from my father, who continually encourages me to work hard and be the best I can be. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and the remarkable people who have guided and mentored me along the way, and have shaped me into the person I am today.