Exploring the Potentials of Restorative Justice Mechanisms (SOTP AND COSA) in Treating Child Sexual Offenders in India

AuthorGarima Pal
Published date01 October 2022
Date01 October 2022
Subject MatterOriginal Articles
Exploring the
Potentials of
Restorative Justice
Mechanisms (SOTP
Treating Child Sexual
Offenders in India
Garima Pal1
For most restorative justice (RJ) promoters, RJ is consequentialist, philosophical,
methodological and political. The efficiency and success of RJ can be drawn from
the person’s ability to judge and act (act of regret). Treatment of offenders and
their participation to a great extent determines the viability of reducing child
sexual abuses (CSA). Programmes such as Sex Offender’s Treatment Programme
(SOTP) and Centre for Support and Accountability (COSA) in CANADA, the
United Kingdom and the United States of America have proved to be effective
in reducing offences of sexual abuse. The programmes focus on accountability,
shaming harm and rehabilitation of the offenders, mostly without involving the
child victim in the process. A critical question, as to what extent the standards
of RJ and international mechanism would be attained in cases of sexual offences
against children, considering the nature of offences and the tender age of victim,
arises. The objective of this article is to explore the potentials of applying RJ
mechanism to cases of CSA in India, keeping in mind the consequentialist and
methodological nature of ‘RJ’. The researcher tried to assess RJ responses to CSA
and the role of criminal justice professionals in implementing and monitoring RJ
processes in cases of child sexual offenses. The research methodology used was
doctrinal, and sources of data collection were secondary sources.
Justice, restorative justice, COSA, SOTP, child sexual abuse, treatment of offenders
Original Article
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
5(2) 202–220, 2022
2022 Rajiv Gandhi National
University of Law
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/25166069221119263
1 Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai (MNLU), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Corresponding author:
Garima Pal, Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai (MNLU), 2nd and 6th Floor, MTNL Building,
Technology St, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076, India.
E-mail: garima.pal@mnlumumbai.edu.in
Pal 203
Criminal law as understood in the traditional sense serves a punitive purpose. It
does not tend to the accused from a restorative aspect and overlooks the normative
approach of justice. The execution of Dhananjoy Chaterjee in 2004, the last execu-
tion in India, for raping and killing a minor, touched great heights of debate, and the
execution cast serious doubts on the ability of Indian criminal justice system. Recent
incidents, such as the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from Bakarwal Tribe
in Jammu, the 11-year-old girl in Gujrat found with 86 injuries and a foreign object
forced into her vagina and rape cases in UP, have created a huge outcry and have
enraged the people. The public are demanding stringent punishment and justice.
The 2007 study on ‘child abuse’ in India2 stated that 53.22% children face one or
more sexual abuse, which paved the way for The Protection of Children from Sexual
Offences (POCSO) Act 2012. Over the years, offences under POCSO, decreased
from 148,090 in 2018 to128,531 in 2020. Of these, 50% of the abusers were known
to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.3 Ironically, 128,531 crimes
were reported during the pandemic (2020)—350 cases on a daily basis.
The increased crime rate and the brutal nature of the offense has always been a
matter of concern, and in response to it, the cabinet approved the Criminal Law
(Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 to allow the death penalty for child rape. But is
death penalty a solution? In 2012, Nirbhaya rape case paved the way for Criminal
Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, but since 2013, there has been no reduction in rape
cases (2,533 girls and 97 boys were sexually abused).4 The percentages of trials
and punishments are increasing, but so are the crime rates. Hence, from a
criminologist perspective, the sexual offenders require counselling instead of
punishment. The infliction of punishment via the formal criminal justice system
seems inadequate as a deterrence for sexual crimes. Restorative justice (herein
after RJ) is seen as an appropriate mode of achieving justice in such cases.
RJ comes as a tool to fill the legal vacuum created due to retributive justice
system. ‘Restorative justice is an alternative approach of criminal law and is
largely consequentialist in nature.5 The process consists of accused taking
responsibility for his act and the outcome of RJ processes are largely shaped by
the parties according to their needs’. Treatment of offenders and their participation
to a great extent determines the viability of reducing child sexual abuse (CSA).
RJ is defined as an ethos with practical goals, among which is to restore harm by includ-
ing affected parties in a (direct or indirect) encounter and a process of understanding
through voluntary and honest dialogue, adopting a fresh approach to conflicts and their
control, retaining at the same time certain rehabilitative goals.6
2    
3 , ncrb.gov.in
4 .
6 Theo Gavrielides,  
, 273 (A. Pitsela & E. Simeonidou-
kastanidou eds., 2007)

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