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Personal details

Edwin Cameron was born in Pretoria on 15 February 1953.

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He completed his schooling at Pretoria Boys’ High School and attended Stellenbosch University on the Anglo-American Open Scholarship, where he obtained a BA Law and an Honours degree in Latin, both cum laude. He lectured in Latin and Classical Studies before studying at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. There he obtained a BA in Jurisprudence and the BCL, with honours and prizes. Cameron received his LLB from the University of South Africa, and received the medal for the best law graduate.

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Professional history

Cameron practised at the Johannesburg Bar from 1983 to 1994. From 1986 he was a human rights lawyer based at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), where he was awarded a personal professorship in law. His practice included labour and employment law; defence of ANC fighters charged with treason; conscientious and religious objection; land tenure and forced removals; and gay and lesbian equality. From 1988 he advised the National Union of Mineworkers on AIDS/HIV, and helped draft and negotiate the industry’s first comprehensive AIDS agreement with the Chamber of Mines. While at CALS, he drafted the Charter of Rights on AIDS and HIV, co-founded the AIDS Consortium (a national affiliation of non-governmental organizations working in AIDS), which he chaired for its first three years, and founded and was the first director of the AIDS Law Project. He oversaw the gay and lesbian movement’s submissions to the Kempton Park negotiating process. This, with other work, helped secure the express inclusion of sexual orientation in the South African Constitution. In September 1994, he was awarded silk (senior counsel status). President Mandela appointed him an acting judge and later a judge of the High Court. In 1999/2000 he served for a year as an Acting Justice at the Constitutional Court. In 2000 he was appointed a Judge of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

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Other activities


  • Chair of the governing Council of the University of the Witwatersrand from 1998 to 2008
  • Patron of Guild Cottage Children’s Home, Sparrow’s Nest Children’s Home, Big Shoes Foundation, Community AIDS Response (CARe), Soweto HIV/AIDS Counsellors’ Association (SOHACA), Ladybrand Hospice, Vuyani Dance Theatre
  • Co-founder and first chair of Wits Law School Endowment Appeal (1998-2005)
  • General Secretary, Rhodes Trust in Southern Africa since 2003


  • Keynote address at the XII International Conference on HIV/AIDS in Durban, 2000
  • Edward A Smith Annual Lecture, Harvard University Law School, 2002
  • President of Bentham Club and Bentham Lecture, University College, London, 2003
  • Inaugural lecture in law, British Academy, 2004
  • Prize for Civil Courage of German gay and lesbian movement, 2007
  • Lord Chief Justice Taylor Memorial Lecture, Inner Temple, 2008
  • Visiting Judge, Birkbeck College, London
  • Honorary Professor, City University, London

Honours and awards

  • Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, 2000
  • Transnet’s HIV/AIDS Champions Award, 2000
  • University of Stellenbosch - Alumnus Award, 2000
  • Special award by the Bar of England and Wales for ‘contribution to international jurisprudence and protection of human rights’, 2002
  • San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Excellence in Leadership Award, 2003
  • ‘Witness to AIDS’ awarded Sunday Times/Alan Paton Prize (South Africa’s premier literary award for non-fiction), 2006
  • Honorary Fellow of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies, 2001
  • Visiting Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford, 2003
  • Honorary Fellow, Keble College, Oxford, 2004
  • Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple, 2009
  • Honorary doctorates in law from King’s College, London and the University of the Witwatersrand
  • Winner of Brudner Prize, Yale University, for gay and lesbian scholarship, 2009
  • Grand Prix du Conseil Québécois des Gais et Lesbiennes, Montreal, 2011

Cameron has written scholarly articles on the judiciary, conscription, labour and employment law, the law of trusts, AIDS and HIV, the legal rights of gays and lesbians and the legal computation of time.  Apart from his memoir, Witness to AIDS (2005), he has also written books on the law of trusts, labour law and gay and lesbian lives in South Africa.

Speeches and Lectures

Wits Centre for Ethics

Seminar in Honour of Professor Tony Honore

The Fourth Scarman Lecture

JSC Interviews

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