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Christian women take on patriarchy in Kerala 

Kottayam: Kerala on September 24 witnessed the launch of a joint movement of independent progressive women from various Churches in the southern Indian state.

The opening of the Kerala unit of the Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM) at the CSI Retreat Centre in Kottayam drew women from Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches.

The forum intends to bring together Christian women of all denominations under the banner ‘Women’s Lives Matter.’ The organizers clarified that the purpose was not to create another organization but to form a consensus across boundaries to change unjust beliefs, practices and structures that perpetuate patriarchy and accentuate the exploitation of women at various levels in the Churches and in society.

Speaking on the occasion, writer and social activist S Saradakkutty questioned the unjust patriarchal systems and asserted the power of women joining hands to create a new social order.

“First time the Catholics women in Kerala are becoming part of the movement,” said Kochurani Abraham, a Catholic feminist theologian who coordinated the Kottayam meeting. Kochurani also said that the movement also aims at involving women more in the important activities of the Church like policy making.

Although the movement has not taken an open stand against the male domination in Churches, the forum is keen to take up such issues in future. Pope Francis had changed the rules for the Church’s traditional foot-washing ceremony on Holy Thursday, issuing a decree allowing women to participate, not all the Churches in Kerala have shown the willingness to follow the Pope’s example.

Except for Latin Church which made it optional and some bishops, the rest have ignored the Pope’s call, The Times of India reported.

Susan Thomas, president of CSI women’s fellowship, said that the Forum has been formed neither with the support nor with the blessings of the Church. “This is an independent one. In future I don’t know how it will shape up,” she added.

Omana Mathew, Chairperson of Kerala Council of Churches (KCC) women’s commission said that one aspect that triggered the formation of such a forum was the safety issues faced by women. Omana who belongs to the Mar Thoma church also said that issues like discrimination of women in the church and denial of personality development of women are also some other factors.

Jaisy Karingattil, vice president of the KCC, said that the efforts for the formation of the forum began over six months back. ‘There was discrimination for women in many Churches. But now it’s changing. The Orthodox Church has now started allowing voting rights for women at parish level,” said Daisy who belongs to Orthodox Church.

In Kerala, the movement will be coordinated by Kochurani Abraham. Shanthi Mathai will be the secretary and Jaisy Karingattil, the treasurer. Other coordinating members include Susan Thomas, Sheeba Tharakan, Shiji Varghese and Omana Mathew.

The concept of the ICWM was proposed at the National Women’s Conference on the theme “Paradigm Shifts in Vatican II and its Impact on Women” in Pune, cultural capital of Maharashtra state.

It wa co-organized by Streevani Pune, NBCLC (National Biblical Catechetical Liturgical Centre) Bangalore, ISI (Indian Social Institute) Bangalore, Montfort Social Institute Hyderabad and CBCI Office for Women at the NBCLC, Bangalore.

The women and men present especially noted the theological and ecclesiological shifts that form a solid basis for equality and mission. As People of God they dreamed about a new way of being Christian wo/men in the future – as mystical prophets, theological critics, political activists and religious who live a deinstitutionalized form of consecrated life.

They shared and discussed intensively on various aspects of the theme and validated their own narratives of discrimination and abuse, resolved to act to reclaim the sacredness of our bodies, our lives, our suffering and ministries, our callings and individual charisms.

The presence of an ecumenical sister as a resource person, who also voiced the need for a common body of Christian Women in India, helped to consolidate their decision to birth the Indian Christian Women’s Movement.

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3 Responses to Christian women take on patriarchy in Kerala

  1. Sr.Carol

    Congratulations to the women leaders who initiated Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM) in Kerala. Hope it will bring about a gender equality in the Church. All the best.

  2. Eugene Culas

    The title –looks and sounds good, but ‘patriarchy’ is an abstract word. It is mainly manifested through daily realities in the form of discrimination, inequality and poverty. It is the same for Christian women also. 80% of the Indian Christians are from the Dalit background (Ref: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2013 – Jointly published by the World Council of Churches and Vatican). 80% women and men are automatically excluded from all walks of Church/ societal life because of caste discrimination, which is the main source of discrimination, poverty and inequality in Kerala/ India. Can the Christian Women take caste discrimination in Kerala / India rather than fighting the abstract patriarchy? Eugene Culas

  3. Lissy

    Congratulations to all of you and look forward to progressive responses. Well done and in solidarity. Lissy