Green Door in Diepsloot helps victims of gender-based violence during the lockdown

    Rethabile Mosese, the acting executive director of Lawyers Against Abuse, gives readers the resources they need to get help for domestic violence issues during the lockdown. Photo: Supplied

    DIEPSLOOT – Two non-profit organisations that work with victims of gender-based violence in the Diepsloot informal settlement discuss what effects the lockdown will have on those they work with.

    A 21-day lockdown has been put into effect in order to save South Africans from the coronavirus, but it won’t help the victims of gender-based violence (GBV).

    According to the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, Covid-19 will most likely disrupt authorities’ ability to respond to gender-based violence, at a time when women and girls need these services most.

    Non-profit organisations which work in the Diepsloot informal settlement are concerned that in the coming weeks, this trend will affect the area too.

    “Domestic violence cases increase in times of chronic stress and disruption,” explained Rethabile Mosese, the acting executive director of Lawyers Against Abuse, a non-profit organisation which works in the informal settlement to provide legal and psycho-social support to victims.

    “At its core, abuse is about power and control. An important part of psychological control is the isolation of the victim from the outside world. This is largely in part because isolation decreases the opportunity for the victim to escape abuse.

    “We recognise that incidents of domestic violence are likely to increase in the coming weeks. Conversely, user-friendliness of GBV services and the ability of women to access these services is likely to decrease. It is imperative that state actors are attentive to the risks towards women and children amid this outbreak.”

    Mosese added that under the Disaster Management Act, entry into the courts and court precinct shall only be allowed in respect of urgent and essential matters. Victims will be able to obtain an interim protection order during the national lockdown.

    Victims may also get a court order to have the perpetrator’s gun removed, or that they be prevented from entering the shared residence if applicable. Other remedies are available, depending on the nature of the abuse.

    Victims have the right to bring a criminal charge against their abusers in addition to obtaining a protection order if the act of domestic violence contained an element of violence. She urged members of the public from Diepsloot as well as other places to contact her organisation for information on legal remedies and protections.

    Brown Lekekela, who runs the Green Door Women’s Shelter in Diepsloot West for women and children fleeing violence, agrees that the lockdown will increase violence in the area. “It will be worse than ever as couples are forced to see each other 24/7, and this will prove that alcohol is not the cause of GBV it is just fuel the problem that couples have and they can’t find solutions and resort into violence as a solution.

    Brown Lekekela of the Green Door Women’s Shelter needs support from the public to help victims of GBV in Diepsloot. Photo: Robyn Kirk

    “At this time, Green Door is still open and is forced to work as a long-term stay [for victims, instead of overnight stays which are the usual] as long-term shelters are at full capacity at this time.

    “There is a slight increase in women who come to the Green Door and now it has changed from incidents that happen during the night to incidents that happen in broad daylight.”

    Lekekela is unsure how the shelter will continue to survive during the lockdown, as the shelter usually relies on funds raised by selling jumble, something they can no longer do.

    “People can donate money to the Green Door account so that we are be able to buy food, toiletries, electricity to our clients, or people can buy and deliver to us in Diepsloot. “We are also looking for sponsorship to help us build a structure that can house more than 40 people for a longer stay. This will help survivors to recover quickly and move on with their lives.”

    Details: Lawyers against Abuse; Lawyers against Abuse Facebook page; 072 031 1840.

    To support Green Door, please contact Brown Lekekela directly at; 065 247 3643.

    By:Robyn Kirk