Many times, people equate convictions in court with justice. While convictions validate a victim’s story and may play an important role in securing justice, true justice requires much more.
Navya* is quiet and shy but has a constant smile on her face. She grew up in a village in northern India. After her father died, her mother re-married and sent Navya to live with her aunt. Life with her aunt was not easy, Navya was mistreated and forced to drop out of school. A woman from her village convinced Navya to accompany her to Delhi to work and study. Instead, the woman dropped her at a placement agency, which put her to work as domestic help.
Navya’s hopes for a better future began to disappear. A year after she started working, the agent ended her placement assignment and brought her back to the agency. He told her she had to sleep with him to get another placement. When Navya refused, he physically assaulted her. A few weeks later, he locked her in a room, and for three days raped her. With the help of a friend, Navya escaped and was placed in a shelter home.
Navya was adamant about testifying and for the agent to go to prison. She wanted her voice to stop her abuser from harming others. In fact, she hopes more girls stand up to those who harm them.
But true justice—justice that heals and repairs harm arising from abuse—often requires more than a conviction. In Navya’s case, she needed support to overcome shame and stigma related to the abuse and to move forward with her life. After she testified, staff from the shelter home where she stayed helped Navya rebuild her life. She was trained as a seamstress and enrolled in school. In 2015, when she turned 18 years old, she transitioned to a home for young women and got a job in a garment company. She earned a salary and opened a savings account as she grew in independence.
In October 2018, the court awarded Navya Rs. 1.25 lakh (approximately $1,800) financial compensation to help transition into life outside the young woman’s home. Navya plans to use the money to start her own garment shop with a few other girls from the home. Beyond giving Navya needed financial assistance, the compensation symbolises that her voice was heard and her story validated.
A voice heard; a story shared, believed and validated; support from people who care; education, employment and financial compensation to overcome stigma and shame—these points of light transcend courtroom justice to form a more beautiful, richer mosaic of justice.
*Name changed to protect identity