By Matters India Reporter
Mumbai: Members of secular organizations and concerned citizens on September 14 expressed their solidarity with a Catholic nun, a rape survivor, who has been fighting for justice in vain in Kerala.
The nun, a former superior general of the Missionaries of Jesus, has alleged that Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar had raped her repeatedly over a period of two years and subsequently intimidated and threated her.
As the case dragged on five sisters of the same congregation on September 8 launched a sit-in at a busy intersection near the Kerala High Court in Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital.
The Mumbai groups commended the five nuns’ “courageous action” in joining the protesters in their struggle for justice. The groups supported the public protest, now ongoing in Kochi and in different parts of the country.
“We deplore Bishop [Mulakkal’s] attempts to play the communal card on serious allegations of rape by labeling calls for him to step down as a conspiracy against the Church. No one is above the law of the land,” said a press release from the groups.
The also deplored the character assassination the survivor nun and her supporters by people, including the Missionaries of Jesus superiors. They singled out a Kerala legislator, P C George, for condemnation for his derogatory and misogynistic remark
“He trivialized the survivor nun’s deep personal pain and violation by calling the rape an act of pleasure because of her delay in making the complaint, and labeled her a “prostitute.”
The groups also condemned the police laxity in probing the case and their inaction against the bishop, despite testimonies of the survivor and others from her congregation.
They expressed “deep disappointment and pain” at the Church hierarchy’s silence on the case and their refusal to make the accused step down from office while the police investigation on.
“By failing to institute an ecclesiastical inquiry against an accused bishop, the hierarchy is calling into question its commitment to implement in spirit and letter two landmark policy documents of the Church, the “Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India, 2010” and the “CBCI Guidelines to Deal with Sexual Harassment at Workplace, 2017”.
In doing so the hierarchy is failing not only a member of the community but a woman and a citizen of the country, the statement added.
The groups then made nine demands
1. The accused immediately step down as Bishop of Jalandhar and patron of the congregation for the duration of the police investigations.
2. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) and the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), publicly support and treat with respect and dignity the survivor nun in her fight for justice.
3. The Catholic Church in India, specifically the Church in Kerala, reach out and offer care and support to the survivor and her congregation who are as much members of the Church as the accused.
4. The police conduct a fair, independent, impartial and time bound investigation in a sensitive manner and respectful of the dignity and integrity of the survivor nun.
5. The State government ensure that the probe into the allegations of rape takes place without any interference and that the survivor, protesting nuns and witnesses receive protection. The State government as well as the Centre must ensure that the survivor nun gets access to legal, medical and counseling support.
6. A time bound internal enquiry be conducted by the Church into the rape allegations. The internal enquiry committee include experts from the wider Church and society (lawyers, ex judges, social workers, etc.) not just bishops and priests for it to be seen as credible and independent. At least 50 percent of the members must be women.
7. The Roman Catholic Church reviews canon law and puts in place a system to address cases of clergy sexual abuse in line with criminal and civil law of the land as well as make provisions for justice for sisters and women.
8. The Roman Catholic Church shows its commitment to its zero tolerance policy in relation to clergy sex abuse by setting up robust and transparent mechanisms to deal with the same.
9. All religions work towards achieving gender justice and the equal participation of women in decision making at all levels within their institutions and structures in line with values enshrined in the Constitution of India.