Kerala Rape Survivor Nun Must Get Justice: Amnesty International

Amnesty International India also pointed out how the Indian Catholic Church failed to abide by its own guidelines.

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Human rights organisation Amnesty International on Tuesday, 18 September, put out a statement urging authorities in Kerala to “ensure timely justice to the Kerala-based nun for alleged sexual violence”.

THE STATEMENT

Referring to the alleged sexual assault inflicted upon the nun by a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar and attempts made by others to smear the name of the survivor herself, Asmita Basu, Amnesty International India’s Programmes’ Director said:

“Revealing the identity of a survivor of sexual violence is a crime under Indian law, but to face backlash from the very community to which she has dedicated her life, is tragic. This is a blatant,and extremely unfortunate attempt, at victim naming and shaming.”

Basu also pointed out how the Indian Catholic Church has failed to abide by its own guidelines on dealing with sexual harassment.

“The Indian Catholic Church has failed to takes she sufficient action in the case, despite repeated appeals by the survivor. This, in itself, is a violation of the Church’s own guidelines on dealing with sexual harassment at the workplace. In addition to this, alleged threats and harassment for having the courage to report the crime, severely curtails her access to justice.”

She further urged the authorities to ensure that justice is delivered at the earliest.

“Authorities in Kerala have a duty to provide timely justice for survivors of rape and sexual violence. They must ensure that the survivor is given a safe avenue to seek legal redress. Prosecutors must initiate appropriate criminal proceedings against suspects and those responsible must be brought to justice at the earliest.”

THE ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

In June 2018, the survivor had filed a police complaint alleging that Bishop James Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar had raped her multiple times between 2014 and 2016.

Subsequently, alleging inaction by several authorities, she even wrote to the Vatican saying that he had indulged in similar behaviour with several other sisters as well.

THE SMEAR CAMPAIGN

As pointed out by Amnesty International, “the very community to which she has dedicated her life” attempted to smear the survivor nun’s name. Not only did the Missionaries of Jesus put out a statement defending the bishop, but they also shared her name and released a picture of the nun.

In the photograph, the survivor is seen sitting with the Bishop at a private function on 23 May 2015.

According to Missionaries of Jesus, the photograph was taken a day after the first incident of alleged rape took place. And according to them, the fact that the nun can be seen sitting in the company of the Bishop was proof that she had not been sexually assaulted the previous day.

An independent MLA from Kerala PC George too referred to the survivor as a “prostitute,” and claimed that she “she enjoyed it.” Subsequently he accepted that he shouldn’t have called her prostitute, but continued deriding her.

HOWEVER, SUPPORT STILL POURS IN

Several people have been outraged at the lack of action against the accused, who is presently being investigated by the police. The survivor’s sister was one of the five nuns who took the protests to the police and she has now also joined a hunger strike for justice.

85-year-old Jose Joseph of the Joint Christian Council and farmer Stephan Mathew have been on a hunger strike since 9 September, demanding the arrest of the bishop.

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