The Women’s Legal Centre put a number of measures in place to ensure it could remain operational despite the restrictions of the national lockdown.
The feminist legal centre said even before President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown, staff were already in the final stages of moving from their office in Adderley Street to be operational off-site.
They also set up a virtual network which enabled them consult with clients online as well as a WhatsApp line to liaise directly with those who need it most; and set up a hotline with other social justice organisations and to build on the strengths of their existing networks to access communities directly.
Consultations and legal advice were provided despite the limitations of the regulations and that did not allow attorneys to operate unless the local legal practice counsel considered the matter was enrolled and urgent. The interpretation of the regulations were very restrictive and it had a disproportionate effect on women who have been sexually violated and those who were stuck with their abusers at home, the Centre said.
They therefore made submissions to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and engaged with various social justice organisations who all forwarded submissions to highlight the impact of the regulations on the poor and vulnerable to access justice and the courts.
When national government implemented stage 5 lockdown, the Women’s Legal Centre published an information booklet that explained the rights of citizens and outlined what essential services were, who they were and what people could do to register and become accredited.
In addition to this, the centre also published a toolkit that was aimed at knowing your rights around Covid-19 as well as how to lay a complaint and who to contact when doing so; and providing assistance when an incident of sexual violence at the Strandfontein shelter for homeless people was reported.
If you need legal assistance, you can contact the Women’s Legal Centre on 079 421 8197 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The national legal hotline number is 066 076 8845 and it is managed by Lawyers for Human Rights on behalf of all the social justice legal organisations.