Kerala nuns’ struggle to stand by the survivor in Bishop Franco Mulakkal case is a cruel reminder that fighting for justice isn’t easy. It is a struggle to back the survivors of sexual crimes in their ordeal to seek justice. Especially when the accused enjoys a greater power and status than his victim. It puts one amidst unforeseen storms in this country, where friends and acquaintances turn foes in a blink. The very institutes which you consider to be your family, try to wash their hands off you. Thus often #MeToo crusaders find themselves fighting battles on multiple fronts.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Four nuns out of five, who stood up in support of a fellow nun who accused Mulakkal of rape last year, have been asked by the church authorities to leave the convent.
  • It is not easy to stand up and say #MeToo, or to back the survivors in their ordeal to seek justice.
  • A system which wants to hide its cracks desperately, by stifling voices of those who point at them.
  • How then, do we encourage women to speak up against sexual crimes?

It is not easy to stand up and say #MeToo, or to back the survivors in their social and judicial ordeal to seek justice.

Four nuns out of five from Missionaries of Jesus congregation, who stood up in support of a fellow nun who accused Mulakkal of rape last year, have been asked by church authorities to leave the convent in Kerala. The church has asked them to return to the vocations they were previously assigned. Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, one of the nuns whom the church has asked to leave the convent says that this is an attempt to weaken their united stand against Mulakkal. “It is a plan aimed at isolating us and weakening the case. Convent authorities have made our lives miserable but we will not dump our fellow nun and will go ahead with the case,” she said speaking to The Hindustan Times.

These four nuns, along with the rape survivor are about to open a Pandora’s box. Who knows what will come out, if these women manage to make a solid case against Mulakkal. This is one of the reasons why anyone would want to break their united stand against Mulakkal. There is a lot to gain from preserving the hierarchy of power and entitlement for the patriarchal society that we live in. So these women are not the only ones struggling to keep their stand against sexual misconduct afloat. When you fight against a system which enables abuse, it fights back to protect its image. Which is what the nuns from Kerala, and many survivors and their supporters are experiencing across the world.

Not many dare to take the fight offline and stand by #MeToo survivors in person, in courts and police stations.

It is easy to present a united front against problems like sexual harassment and abuse, virtually. But standing up as an individual is an entirely different ball game. Few have the courage to bare their identities off the protection that virtual anonymity provides. Not many dare to take the fight offline and stand by #MeToo survivors in person, in courts and police stations. But those who dare, face more resistance than support. Which is why so few ordinary women take individual stands outside of the virtual world, with rape and assault survivors. Because here, the opposition isn’t just a predatory man, but an entire system which enabled him. A system which wants to hide its cracks desperately, by stifling voices of those who point at them.

How then, do we encourage women to speak up against sexual crimes? How do we encourage people to stand by survivors and help them get justice? When all we can do is watch helplessly as a survivor’s support system gets torn to pieces. While we must admire the courage these nuns have shown in such times of distress, we need to ask ourselves why aren’t we questioning the system which favours predators? Why do we still stand by patriarchal hierarchy and choose to protect men with power? What do these nuns stand to gain by standing up for one of their sisters? Their life has turned into a horror story and they are outcasts in their own community. The resistance they face is one of the biggest reasons why it is difficult for women to stand up against sexual crimes. And unless that resistance gives way to support, their struggles will not come to an end.

Picture Credit: The Week

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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