WE noted that “Restorative justice uses mediation and negotiation supposedly between two adults on the basis of equality, while the power dynamic of domestic violence is unequal power and control by one person over another, which is how domestic violence occurs and re-occurs.
No mediator or mediation process of one or two sessions will change this, especially due to the complexity of domestic violence. Unfortunately, more than likely the survivor will be intimidated by the presence of the abusive partner and the domestic violence violations will be trivialised. In such unequal conditions justice cannot be served.”
The government has been developing its capacity for restorative justice through the IDB-funded Support for the Criminal Justice System Project. In March 2021, some of us met with the project team, including the consultant on restorative practices, Dr Dianne Williams. The team confirmed that the approach and training to restorative practices is guided by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (https://www.iirp.edu). The IIRP has been certifying the training.
The project team and the consultant confirmed that the restorative practices model being implemented in Guyana is not to be applied to situations involving domestic violence and sexual offences, even if there are applications in other places.
We know that the Spotlight Initiative, which is being implemented in Guyana, will no longer consider the application of restorative justice to domestic violence or any other form of gender-based violence.
The Government must be clear on its commitment to holding perpetrators of gender-based violence accountable. It must not be seen to imply that it is okay for stakeholders to apply restorative justice to ‘solve’ gender-based violence. It must not use forums where domestic violence and sexual violence are being discussed to talk about restorative justice, as in our current social context, restorative justice will lead to more harm for survivors.
Josephine Whitehead, Danuta Radzik – Help & Shelter
Wintress White, Halima Khan, Susan Collymore, Vanessa Ross, Joy Marcus – Red Thread