Church in Kerala shaken by sex scandals

Written by: Rajesh Krishna
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Bangalore, Aug 14: 'Even the God is helpless to protect his brides in his own country Kerala.'

Christian girls in Kerala who are destined to be as nuns or bride of the Jesus, are facing sexual harassments and ill treatments within the four walls of the Christian convents. For the last two decades the disastrous end of young girls who embraced the nun-hood turned to be a news item in the column of the newspapers of Kerala. So far a dozen such news catches the headings of the press.The latest in the list is Anupa Mary, a young nun killed herself in her room on Monday, August 11 after leaving an alleged suicide note blaming the mother superior, prompting calls for a probe into 'unsavoury' happenings inside convents.

The body of Anupa Mary, 24, an inmate of St Mary's Convent was found hanging in the convent on Monday, Aug 11 evening. Anupa, a native of Kundara in Kollam, had also left a suicide note, saying she was forced to take the extreme step due to the mental harassment meted out by a senior nun.

Sister Anupa Mary's father Pappachan, a cook at Catholic Bishop's House at Kollam, 70km from the Kerala capital, claimed she had been sexually abused. He said Mother Superior Albena forced his daughter to “go into her room to share her bed". Anupa had shared this shocking experience with her mother and sister, he added.

Christian clergy in Kerala has been confronted with several sex scandals in the recent past.

Sr Abhaya case

Sr Abhaya case was the beginning of a new turn in the history of church sponsored criminalism in Kerala. The body of 21 year Sr Abhaya was found lifeless in the well of a Convent well in 1992. When the body was found, church authorities told the media that she had committed suicide, but investigations concluded that Sr. Abhaya was not only killed but raped and killed! The chemical examination at the Government Forensic Lab pointed to Abhaya being raped before murder.

Investigators say two theories behind Sr Abhaya's death. One, she was murdered when she refused the sexual advances of a priest or a bishop. Second, she was killed because she knew that some of her colleague nuns had sexual relationships with two Catholic priests. However, CBI is yet to book the culprits behind the murder of Sr Abhaya even after 16 years.

The above mentioned are only some identical incidents from a dozen convent tragedies that took place in the recent past. These mysterious deaths of nuns clearly underly problems in convent life for women in Kerala. These incidence also give credence to the State Women's Commission's observation that all is not well in the convents in the state.

Profession of of the nun-hood in Kerala

In Kerala many nuns are forced into convents by parents too poor to marry them off. Marriage expenses of these communities are a major concern to these parents. The dowaries for marriageble girls are also out of question.

Under such conditions, an opportunity to send a daughter off to a convent is like a godsend--- hundreds of families took advantage of it and encourage their daughters to join convents as they pass the tenth standard and later made to entrol as nuns. The Church in Kerala is booking profit out of this economic backwardness that still exists amongst the Christian families and thus recruits girls from such families as nuns.

More over there have been cases where male members of the family forcibly send girls to the nunnery as they do not want to part with their properties. Nuns have no right to property as they adopt nun's life after taking the poverty pledge. commission's observation about the poor plight of nuns in the convents

Violation of Human Rights

Society and religious bodies should see plight of nuns as human rights issue. The practice of recruiting girls to the convents before 18 must go.The recruitment to the profession of nunnery at the tender age is not different from girl-foeticide, so it must be treated as criminal act and those who involve, with out considering the social status of person, must brought before the law.

If criminal laws are not sufficient to deal with, it should make further laws to book the culprits. State government also should enact a law to prevent exploitation of nuns.The girls who became nuns should be allowed to retain the share of the family wealth they inherited.

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