Charlene May is a South African attorney who has spent the better part of fourteen years practicing in the area of public interest litigation with a specific focus on access to socio-economic rights realization. She has experience litigating the right to custom for women in the instance where their rights to housing, land and property rights were tied to their marriages which took place in accordance with customary law. Additionally, she has been involved in a number of cases dealing with the right to land and housing; representing communities facing eviction as well as land restitution for communities that lost their land as a result of forced removals during apartheid. May has assisted in developing gendered rights-based arguments to promote women’s right to housing.
May has engaged in advocacy for the right to work and to choose one’s own profession, on behalf of community health care workers and sex workers. She has provided legal advice and opinions to national human rights bodies and trade unions. She has contributed to submissions to the UN Committee on Economic Social Cultural Rights on conditions of work, and to the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty on women’s care work. She has also participated in preparing a number of reports for UN treaty bodies and the African Commission on the rights of women and transgender women; in particular, lack of access to health care and safety and security.
May sits on the board of Sisonke, an association advocating for the rights of sex workers in South Africa, and Masibambane Social Housing Company, which facilitates strategic support and social housing projects.