‘Juvenile justice system does not address the needs of the victims’

Does mere conviction of a person accused of child sexual abuse mean justice for the victim? What are the needs of the victim and who is expected to fulfil them.

These were some of the questions raised during a three-day workshop, which concluded on January 19 and was organised by Sujatha Baliga, an expert on restorative justice who has worked on this extensively. The workshop was organised by Enfold Proactive Health Trust, a non-governmental organisation, and was attended by 24 people working with children and youth.

Ms. Baliga said that the concept of restorative justice was to create a paradigm shift in the way we think of wrongdoing. “We do not take sides and try to create meaningful accountability,” she said.

She has worked with prison inmates and has been working on this concept since 2007. “For instance, if someone stole a car, we try to create a dialogue between the victim and the accused to see how the issue can be sorted,” she said. She added that it works best in cases where they are not willing to engage in the legal system. The process involves including the family and the community in helping keep the system safe and positive.

Swagata Raha, a legal researcher, said that they have been trying to adopt principles of restorative justice in the juvenile justice system in India. Several experts had come together and tried to work around this concept after the gang rape of a paramedical student in Delhi in 2012. “There were several people who demanded that the juvenile accused of rape in the case should be hanged or tried as an adult. We realised that the criminal justice and juvenile justice system do not address the needs of the victims,” she said.

Sachi Maniar, who works with a Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation Ashiyana, which works with children in conflict with the law, orphaned and abandoned children, said that they were trying to adopt this system. “We conduct re-entry circles where children who have been accused of theft sit together. We give them a safe space and they share their stories. The purpose of these circles is to amplify the good, and helps bring back self-respect and dignity.”

Urvashi Tilak, who works with a Delhi-based organisation Counsel to Secure Justice, which works with victims of child sexual assault and children in conflict with the law, said that this concept would throw light on the victim and their needs. “The concept of justice is limited in itself, and does not address the needs of the child and family. Several times, the victims have an emotional turmoil around the court system itself,” she said.

Ms. Raha said that while this concept maybe most effective before it enters the criminal justice system, but is not meant to subvert the criminal justice system. “ It aims to address what the victim really needs and could even be after the criminal justice system.”

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 1:21:34 PM |

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