Academic journal article Indian Social Science Journal

Restorative Justice as a Process and Its Relevance for the Victims of Sexual Abuse in India

Academic journal article Indian Social Science Journal

Restorative Justice as a Process and Its Relevance for the Victims of Sexual Abuse in India

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION:

One area often questioned is the use of restorative processes in cases of victims of physical and sexual abuse. For the victims of physical and sexual abuse it can be just to argue that criminalization of domestic violence was important in changing societal views towards violence in relationships and that the use of restorative practices can give a platform to return domestic violence to a private sphere and the resultant continued victimization. Physical and sexual abuse such as rape results in mental and physical health, social, and legal consequences. For the latter, restorative justice-based programs might augment community response. This paper tries to identify survivors' needs and existing community responses to them.

There is a need for identifying common ground in advocacy and restorative justice goals and calls for a holistic approach to the needs of rape survivors that includes advocating for expanded justice alternatives. A positive approach is indeed needed to implement restorative alternatives to expand survivor choice and offender accountability. Conventional and restorative justice is often viewed as mutually exclusive whereas the article argues that they are complementary.

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE:

The word 'restorative' means to restore or make restitution, that is, to bring back to an original condition or to put back in a former position. On the other hand, 'justice' is the quality of being just. A restorative justice conceptualization involves first the survivor or the direct victims and secondarily victimized family and friends who suffer distress along with their loved one; the community members who experience less safety and social connection when they perceive high levels of crime and who simultaneously may be contributing to an environment supportive of violence; and the offenders as well as their families and friends, who experience guilt and shame that is associated with being accused of a crime or belonging to the interpersonal relationship context from which the offense arose.

In common parlance Restorative Justice is a way of seeing crime as more than an act of breaking the law but as a source which causes harm to people, relationships, and the community at large. Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It can be accomplished through cooperative processes that include identifying and taking steps to repair harm, involving all stakeholders, and transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.

Some of the programmes and outcomes typically identified with restorative justice include: Victim offender mediation, Conferencing, Circles, Victim assistance, Ex- offender assistance, Restitution, Community service. The basic principles of restorative justice is that, the justice which primarily requires restoring those who have been injured and thus should involve all those who are directly affected by crime if they wish to.

In reviewing criminal justice system in India it is a fact that, the sufferings of the victims of crime have been largely neglected, the victims receive compensation only in a limited ways when the offender is convicted and sentenced. Although victim assistance is a rarity in India, its bases exists under the Indian Constitution, which provides that the state is mandated to secure "the right to public assistance in cases of disablement and in other cases of undeserved want."

Braithwaite in his work on restorative justice and civil society said that, "the State, under the guise of caring for its citizens, steals their conflicts and hands them over to the courts. The crime is against the State and State interests drive the process of doing justice. Victims of crime are left on the sidelines of justice, with little or no input and thus feel twice victimized - first, by the offender and second, by the disregard of their interests by the criminal justice system. …

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