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Justice for Kerala nun

Justice for Kerala nun

The church in Kerala is once again in the news after a nun has accused a bishop of raping her over a period of two years. The nun has filed an FIR and is seeking action against the senior priest. She has a group of nuns supporting her and demanding that immediate action should be taken against the accused. The nuns are on a sit-in in front of Kerala High Court in Kochi, where the matter is being heard. The Kerala High Court on Thursday expressed satisfaction over the police investigation and said that it is the discretion of the investigating officer to decide when to arrest the accused. The high court was hearing three petitions seeking an early arrest of the accused, Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal. The court also appreciated the police investigation and said that since the incident dates back to some years ago, gathering evidence about it is difficult. Undue pressure on the police to arrest the accused may result in a shoddy work by the police, the court said. On the question of handing over the case to CBI, the court asked the petitioner to have patience. Meanwhile, the politics and mud-slinging on the issue have already begun with Kerala legislator PC George last week calling the nun a prostitute. Though he regretted making such a derogatory remark against the nun later, he stood by what he said in his statement. The legislator's argument was that the nun did not report the sexual assault when it first took place. She reported the matter only after two years since she was first raped. She has accused the bishop of rape at least 13 times during the course of two years between 2014 and 2016.

The latest case of sexual abuse of a nun by the church functionaries is not an isolated case. Such cases of moral turpitude have regularly been reported from different Christian organisations across the country and the world. These incidents cause a damage to the image of Christian institutions, which are otherwise a great source of relief for a large number of people. These institutions have earned a reputation for offering help and solace to the poor and the needy in the country's most neglected areas. They have also done a commendable job in providing quality education at cost-effective prices. But the good image created by the noble works done by Christian organisations takes a beating every time there is a negative news about the functionaries or clergymen involved with the church. The sexual exploitation of nuns is an old issue and has come to the fore at regular intervals. The issue reveals that the role played by the nuns has not been recognised in true perspective. In order to represent the people who follow the religion, nuns are an integral part of the Christian religion and they are expected to take the message of the Christ to every follower including the women. But the institutional guidelines for the nuns have increasingly made them confined to the church and its activities. They were supposed to meet the people in the field and help them with the message of god but the institutional restrictions have isolated them and left them at the mercy of senior priests in the church. This seclusion coupled with lack of choice results in an environment of exploitation. No wonder, we have nuns accusing the priests of raping them.

The life of nuns and priests are not easy. They have to abandon their families and commit themselves to a strict regime of religious life, where they are expected to lead a simple life devoid of any ambition. They have to remain engaged with the people and help them. Some irregularities and aberrations are natural and this should not obscure the larger picture that the religion represents. Christianity is the largest religion and Christian organisations are present in every part of the world. Stray incidents of moral aberration should not affect their overall image or functioning. In the current case, the nuns are demanding action against a senior priest who sexually exploited a nun using his position of power. The matter is now with the police and the normal course of law would be followed. But the incident should also make the church look into its affairs and clear the mess before more such issues come to light. The Christian organisations including the church should understand that certain reforms are necessary for the religion to become relevant to the modern times. With more social scrutiny and stringent laws in place, the environment has completely changed since the church had made its guidelines last.

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