Efforts have been made to persuade the Catholic church in India to take steps against the clergy who have been accused of sexually abusing women. While this development is taking its own slow process and time, Catholic women have come together address this issue themselves.
An NGO Streevani [voice of women] along with Satyashodak [seekers of truth], a women’s collective and three other groups who are working for women’s empowerment, met in Hyderabad to discuss how religion and culture makes an impact on women’s empowerment in the Indian context.
The Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has just finished drafting measures to deal with the issue of sexual abuse in the church, but before they could finalise the drafts, the women and men who met in Hyderabad came up with their own set of actions and policies.
Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, who heads Satyashodak, addressed the meeting saying that they should not wait for the church to take action, and instead devise their own policies to curb this problem. They decided to analyse the 1983 Code of Canon Law, keeping the International Bill of Human Rights and Indian Civil Law in mind. Changing the overall mindset was the basic agenda, but that is a battle which will take years to win. The group concluded that they wanted to facilitate gender sensitization of men, bishops, priests and seminarians under the 2010 Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India.
The women also decided to set up a sub-committee under the Indian Christian Women’s Movement to address the problems women face within the church. They will also address cases of sexual abuse. The group also wants to collaborate with Conference of Religious India which consists of superior congregations of men and women, who can help resolve common matters. A pan-India network has been suggested to deal with the clergy sexual abuse cases.
While these are measures to curb the problems, there is also a step taken to provide support to the victims. Counselling and unconditional support has been suggested for all those who have gone through any kind of abuse.
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