What is the problem we want to address?
In India, patriarchal attitudes on sexual violence find expression in both public and private realms including in our legal frameworks that are deeply rooted in paternalistic and cis-heteronormative beliefs arising from different eras of law-making in colonial and post-colonial India.
As a result, the pursuit of justice for survivors of sexual violence and abuse remains elusive and restrictive, despite constitutional safeguards.
The criminal legal system in India often only represents the interests of dominant groups, while individuals who lack access to traditional sources of power like caste and class privilege including those marginalized by gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion etc. aren’t covered by the law.
The legal system’s ability to render justice, therefore, has been found to be woefully inadequate, difficult to access and navigate, and based on a continuum of legal interpretive acts which are rarely grounded in the lived realities of those they are meant to benefit.
Despite this, a significant portion of our response to sexual violence is deeply invested in the carceral process. We know that punitive measures do little to curb violence and state-based responses act as an additional source of violence through which survivors are re-victimized and social and racial minorities are disproportionately incarcerated.
We believe that this is further reflected in and perpetuated by how we respond to harm and conflict in our communities and within interpersonal relationships.
What is the world we want to contribute to building?
Our goal is to develop community-based, anti-carceral and feminist interventions to sexual harm and abuse in India, where currently no such alternative redressal mechanisms exist for survivors, except for a legal recourse.
We seek to re-conceptualize what justice might mean when it centers the voices of those harmed, and work to understand and utilize restorative and transformative practices as well as tools for community accountability with a view to move away from carceral responses to sexual violence.
Through these practices, we want to contribute to building a world where survivors of sexual harm and abuse have access to multiple and varied community-based processes that support their healing, allow them to seek tangible accountability from those who act abusively and also create conditions that cultivate real transformation in our communities.
We envision communities that are able to respond to harm independently of the criminal legal system and other punitive structures, and where no one is considered disposable.
How will we go about building that world?
We seek to envision and practice alternative strategies to address sexual harm in our communities. In India, where social relations are maintained by caste patriarchy, the question of what a ‘community’ means for us here is a pertinent one, and forms an important basis in our efforts to re-conceptualise what justice might mean when it centres the voices of those harmed.
We work to understand and utilise restorative and transformative practices as well as tools for community accountability with a view to move away from carceral responses to violence in our communities.
We welcome collective learning, curiosity and resource-sharing through which we imagine a world where justice is not synonymous with punitive state punishment.
We do this by creating spaces for:
Knowledge building and collective learning
Practicing our values
Supporting when harm occurs
Our goal is to strengthen and support our community’s collective capacity to respond to harm in all the spaces they move within.
Deepika Bhardwaj, Organiser
Deepika is a New Delhi-based, queer and feminist organiser with a background in Gender Studies. She is interested in transformative justice and anti-violence work rooted in an abolitionist praxis and focused on building meaningful and accountable relationships within our communities. Deepika initiated Alternative Justice in early 2020 with an aim to re-conceptualise justice as restorative and transformative, to critically analyze punitive and individualistic approaches to sexual harm, and to build alternative strategies to address violence in our communities that are independent of the criminal legal system and other punitive structures.
Nishma Jethwa, Co-organiser
Nishma is a facilitator, educator and activist who has been organising across a variety of social justice issues for the last 10 years. She is originally from London with roots and community in Gujarat and Mumbai. For the past three years, Nishma has been working within movements to lead and support organisational and community development, build and deliver training curricula rooted in feminist and anti-oppression practice, and frame programs to advance gender justice, labour rights and feminist tech. She has a background in law with a specific interest in critically looking at punitive and individualistic approaches to harm, conflict and abuse. Nishma joined Alternative Justice as a co-organiser in conducting research and other experiments towards building alternative transformative strategies to address violence in our communities.