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WLC director Seeham Samaai leading the feminist revolution in the legal field

6 August 2022 1:51 PM
Tags:
Women
Feminism
Womens Legal Centre
Seeham Samaai

Zain Johnson speaks to Seeham Samaai, the director of the Women's Legal Centre on 'The Profile' this week.
Women's Legal Centre director Seeham Samaai Photo: Women's Legal Centre/Facebook

Fierce, determined and passionate, Cape Town born attorney and activist, Seeham Samaai, is a leading voice for women in South Africa.

Samaai heads up the Women's Legal Centre (WLC) in Cape Town, an organisation which has been at the forefront of court battles for women's rights.

For more than a decade, it took up the cudgels to get Muslim marriages legally recognised in South Africa and was victorious after taking the fight to the Constitutional Court.

Samaai has had an illustrious career as a legal practitioner, University of the Western Cape (UWC) lecturer and a member of numerous boards and community organisations.

Born and bred in the colourful and historic Bo Kaap, Samaai was entrenched in civic politics from an early age. The intrepid attorney completed her articles at the Legal Resource Centre and did a stint at Lawyers for Human Rights, working on farm and land projects.

After concluding her Masters thesis on land evictions, Samaai ventured into academia as a teacher in clinical education for law students at UWC. She later took up a position in the Department of Justice, where she worked on domestic violence cases and in the sexual offences court and maintenance court .

As a committed gender rights activist, she headed up various government stakeholder networks.

Zain Johnson spoke to Sehaam Samaai on The Profile about her notable career.

I think it was a full circle coming back to civil society and to contribute in advancing the rights of women.

Seeham Samaai, Women's Legal Centre director

The WLC is an African feminist legal centre, which drives a feminist agenda. The WLC primarily takes on cases of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

The centre also develops law, policy, and feminist jurisprudence based on an intersectional approach.

According to Samaai, the courts are not sensitive to the multi-layered complexities of discrimination faced by women.

It's [the courts] still very much patriarchal and we need to shift that, especially for victims of sexual violence, so that the system doesn't oppress women further and create secondary victimisation.

Seeham Samaai, Women's Legal Centre director

We all know women that have been abused and have to navigate the social-economic system. For example, women have to use a transport system where they can be violated, going to a police system where you are not heard and when it enters the court, you are just a witness in your entire case.

Seeham Samaai, Women's Legal Centre director

If the court system ensures there are well trained prosecutors, auxiliary workers, social workers and maintenance officers sensitive to the complexities of women, then secondary victimization will not occur.

So those are the systemic issues the WLC takes up and we raise this through our advocacy, lobbying and networking. We make numerous submissions to different government departments to ensure there is change in the system.

Seeham Samaai, Women's Legal Centre director

Scroll up to listen to the full conversation.




6 August 2022 1:51 PM
Tags:
Women
Feminism
Womens Legal Centre
Seeham Samaai

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