Press Conference to Express Solidarity with the Survivor Nun
14th September, 2018, between 3 - 4 p.m.
Marathi Patrakar, CSMT, Azad Maidan, Mumbai
We, members of secular organizations and concerned citizens have come together to express our solidarity with the survivor nun from Kuravilangad, Kottayam who has been fighting for justice in vain. The survivor nun, a former Superior General of her congregation, has alleged that Bishop Franco Mullackal of the Roman Catholic diocese of Jalandhar, who is the patron of her congregation raped her repeatedly over a period of two years and subsequently intimidated and threatened her. We commend the courageous action of the 5 nuns who hail from the rape survivor’s convent in Kottayam, in joining the protesters in their struggle for justice and express our solidarity with the public protest, now ongoing in Kochi and in different parts of the country.
We deplore Bishop Franco’s attempts to play the communal card on serious allegations of rape by labelling calls for him to step down as a conspiracy against the church. No one is above the law of the land.
We deplore the character assassination against the survivor nun and other sisters in solidarity with her including by the Missionaries of Jesus, her own congregation.
We strongly condemn the derogatory and misogynistic remark made by PC George an independent MLA from Kerala. 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 labelled her a 'prostitute'.
We condemn the laxity of the police in the probe against the bishop and their inaction against him, despite the testimonies of the survivor and others from her congregation.
We express our deep disappointment and pain at the silence of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and their refusal to make the accused step down from office while the police investigation is ongoing. 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.
We therefore demand -
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 Conference (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 counselling support.
6. A time-bound internal inquiry be conducted by the Church into the rape allegations. The internal inquiry 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.
We join women’s organizations, human rights groups, members of the Christian community and larger civil society all over the country in solidarity to build pressure on the government, the police and the Catholic Church to act in a just, fair and transparent manner, and to reach out to the survivor nun and those protesting to ensure that there is no further victimization and harassment of any kind.