Restorative Justice in Cases of Sexual Violence: Insights from Seema Deswal’s Empirical Study

Sexual violence has long plagued societies, leaving countless victims in its wake. In India, this issue has garnered increased attention, with legislative changes in 2013 aiming to strengthen deterrence against such heinous acts. But does the legal approach sufficiently address the profound impact on victims? Ms. Seema Deswal’s groundbreaking presentation, co-presented by Ms. Paramjeet Kaur and supported by Dr. Upneet Lalli, sought to unravel this intricate web.

Drawing from her rich academic background and ongoing Ph.D. research, Ms. Deswal introduced the audience to an empirical study conducted on ‘sex offenders’ inside prisons. The primary focus was understanding whether these offenders recognized the harm inflicted on their victims and if they were genuinely remorseful.

Her findings were both revealing and disconcerting. While legal reforms have been focused on punitive measures, Deswal emphasized that the real healing for victims often remains unaddressed. Monetary compensation might provide relief, but the scars, both emotional and psychological, linger, often exacerbated by the grueling trial process. The study’s revelations that incarceration is a limited solution resonate deeply in the current scenario, where crimes continue unabated despite stringent legal provisions.

Yet, amid the grim reality, Deswal’s research provided a glimmer of hope. Intriguingly, she discovered that some of the younger offenders did exhibit a genuine willingness to confront the harm they had caused. They showed a readiness to apologize, indicating the potential for restorative justice (RJ) practices in addressing the profound consequences of sexual violence.

Ms. Deswal’s compelling argument for the application of restorative justice in India’s context highlighted its dual advantages: alleviating victims’ trauma and making offenders more accountable for their actions. The core principle of restorative justice revolves around repairing the harm rather than mere retribution. By fostering a dialogue between the victim and offender, it aims to rebuild trust, ensure accountability, and offer a path to healing.

But the question remains: Can restorative justice be effectively implemented in cases of sexual violence, especially in a society steeped in patriarchal norms? While the idea seems promising, its practical execution requires sensitive handling, keeping in mind the deeply personal and traumatic nature of such crimes.

The presentation drew attention to the importance of integrating restorative justice with the existing legal system, emphasizing victim-centric approaches. By placing the victim’s well-being at the forefront, it can create a more compassionate and holistic response to sexual violence.

In conclusion, Ms. Seema Deswal’s enlightening presentation pushed boundaries, challenging conventional thought and urging the audience to view the issue of sexual violence through the lens of restoration and healing. Her research underscored the need for a paradigm shift in addressing sexual offenses – one that encompasses acknowledgment, remorse, and genuine efforts at reparation. With the invaluable insights provided, there’s hope that India can pave the way for a more compassionate and effective response to sexual violence, weaving restorative justice into the very fabric of its justice system.