Malini Laxminarayan has joined the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) recently to work as the Project Officer of the LetsGoByTalking project. The EFRJ is an expert partner in the project coordinated by the University of Barcelona. It aims contribute to the reparation of anti-LGBTI hate crimes, by guaranteeing the victim’s rights, through the promotion of restorative justice. On the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (May 17) we have made a mini interview with Malini about the significance of the project and her involvement in it. 

Malini Laxminarayan

This is not the first time you are working with us, several of us  already met you while you were working on the Accessibility and Initiation of Restorative Justice project. What was particularly interesting for you in the LetsGoByTalking project?

I was really excited reading about the LetsGoByTalking project as I believe it is taking the next step in the field of restorative justice. I don’t think there are many restorative justice scholars who doubt the effectiveness of these procedures, but there is still a long way to go in understanding the mechanisms at play, and more specifically, how different groups will experience restorative justice (of which I think hate crimes is an interesting group to be involved in these types of processes for a number of reasons). Also with increasing attention now finally coming in at the EU level in the fight against anti-LGBTI hate crime, it is a great time for such a project, also as it can make important impact on policy. I also really supported the format of the Accessibility project, one that is somewhat similar to the LetsGoByTalking activities. The project takes evidence-based knowledge and creates opportunities for practitioners and relevant stakeholders to learn from each other, and from experts/trainers on the topic, using this evidence-based knowledge.

What are your tasks in the project? 

At the moment, I am working on the research part of the project, together with Çavaria, focusing on restorative justice in Belgium, and its application to anti-LGBTI hate crimes. At later stages, we will be organising knowledge-exchange workshops and supporting in the development of trainings on this topic.

What would you like to see or have as outcomes by the end of the project? 

I think we are only in the infancy of understanding how restorative justice will and should be applied to this issue. There definitely are experienced mediators and good practices out there, but we need to invest in finding them and understanding how to strengthen each other’s capacities. I also predict that there will be a lot of knowledge exchange among countries, which is very important for this issue where the response for victims is at many different stages depending on the country.

You joined the EFRJ at a very strange time and although we have been working together for several weeks, we haven't seen each other in person yet. How do you cope with these special circumstances? 

I am lucky that I already know a bit about how the EFRJ works, granted that was from 6 years ago. But I think it is why I don’t really feel as though I am entirely new, which helps. From what I have seen it’s a great team, and I am really happy to get to work with Edit and Manu again! I also make sure to drink Belgian beers after each team zoom to be sure I really feel integrated.

Do the measures resulting from Covid-19 affect the project? In which way? 

As I mentioned we are now in the data collection phase, and you can imagine for qualitative work, online interviews are never ideal. At the same time, the coordinators and all partners are doing their best to ensure the project is not delayed, and we luckily can be a bit creative about it. Of course we will have to see what it will all mean for the workshops and trainings that will be held in later phases of the project, but we will absolutely find a way!