The National Commission for Women has asked the central government to intervene in order to abolish the practice of confessions in the churches of India. NCW has asked the government to intervene because it feels that the confessions done in churches can prove detrimental to the safety and security of women. The observations were made by NCW while submitting a report on the two sex scandals which happened in Kerala. The commission has sought a probe by a Central Agency into the two sex scandals. Rekha Sharma, chairperson of the NCW went on to add that a central agency probe is necessary because such crimes against women are on the rise in Kerala. The practice of confessions in the churches is being misused by the priests and fathers of the churches against the women. It is also disturbing how the women are made to share their private life with priests. This has led to a growing case of suffering and crimes against women which are carried out by the clergy of the church.
The demand from the NCW came in the backdrop of the latest incident from Kerala where a woman and her husband had filed a blackmail and rape case against four priests of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. The woman and her husband both belonged to the same diocese and the priests had used her confessions to blackmail the woman into having sex with him and his colleagues. In a separate incident, which again happened in Kottayam district of Kerala, a nun had alleged that a Bishop belonging to the Jalandhar diocese had raped her and had unnatural sex with her multiple times over a period of three years. The NCW had constituted an inquiry committee to look into the alleged sexual assaults against women in churches from Kerala and the findings of the committee were sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and the DGP of Kerala and Punjab. The NCW chairperson also wanted the government to ensure that the guilty priests are punished at the earliest. “The woman was socially harassed. She left her job after the incident as her photograph was circulated on social media. The two priests are at large and they need to be nabbed” the NCW chairperson added.
It is saddening that the churches in India today have gone into a self-defensive mode and have through articles published in their own magazines, decided to protect the accused and alleged perpetrators of crime against women. The Commission felt the need to issue this tough statement because the church had till date not taken any action against the accused and had instead tried to portray the crime as a case of consensual misconduct. Numerous instances of clergymen from the various churches being involved in crimes against women have come to light from Kerala and this is exactly why the central government needs to hand over the investigation to elite central agencies. Some more cases might pop up if a competent authority which is not acting under any duress from the state government of Kerala is handed over the charge of investigation.
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