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We need strong response from church on gender violence: Women’s group

The church’s response to recent allegations of rape against priests was discussed at the first national convention of Indian Christian Women’s Movement in Pune.

mumbai Updated: Aug 15, 2018 05:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Church,Indian Christian Women’s Movement,gender violence
Activists take out a candlelight protest to condemn rising incidence of sexual crimes against women across the country at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi recently.(Saarthak Aurora/ HT Photo)

Christian women who attended a meeting on gender violence in churches said ‘institutional response’ of church authorities to such incidents has been weak. The women were part of the first national convention of Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM) in Pune, on Monday.

Discussed at the meet was the church’s response to recent allegations of rape against priests. One case discussed was of the four priests from Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The priests have been accused of blackmailing and sexually abusing a woman who confessed, as a religious duty, to one of the accused about being sexually assaulted by a priest as a child. The four priests have been arrested.

Another case discussed was sexual abuse of a nun by a priest from Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Jalandhar. The bishop, Franco Mulakkal, is being questioned by Kerala police.

“We condemn the fact that there is silence on the church’s part, even after these incidents have been reported. There is no leadership and we are not sure if the action is being taken in these cases. There are guidelines laid down under Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), that need to be followed,” said Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, regional coordinator (Mumbai), ICWM.

Gajiwala added the group also intends to fight for equal justice for women, children, Dalits, tribals and transgenders, and the whole purpose of having a national convention was to discuss the issues faced by women in society, irrespective of religion.

Spokesperson for the local Catholic archdiocese said since the incidents were reported in different denominations — Latin and Orthodox , method of investigation varies.

“The church will investigate the matter and take strict action against the priest because confession is sacred to all Catholics. As far as I know, churches concerned have initiated a probe,” said Nigel Nigel Barrett, spokesperson, Archdiocese of Bombay.

The incidents had led to the demand for banning the sacrament of confession. The National Commission for Women recommendation a ban on the custom,saying it leads to blackmailing of women. A petition was filed in Kerala High Court on Thursday dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a ban as it was encroachment of personal privacy, but the court dismissed the plea. .

First Published: Aug 15, 2018 05:31 IST