I feel like every time Kerala women come together to do anything, the results are awesome. Like when they don sarees and get together to dance to Jimiki Kammal, or when they have had enough of misogyny from film industry insiders and start their own Women in Cinema Collective with amazing results. Now, for the first time in the history of the Church in the state, progressive, forward-thinking Christian women from different denominations have come together to launch the Indian Christian Women’s Movement, and I think the results are going to be something to watch out for.
The group wants to bring Christian women together under the banner ‘Women’s Lives Matter’, and was formed as an independent body with neither the “support nor with the blessings” of the church.
Inaugurated on Saturday at the CSI Retreat Centre in Kerala, the group’s purpose is to “change unjust beliefs, practices and structures that perpetuate patriarchy and accentuate the exploitation of women in the churches and in society at various levels”. It aims to tackle discrimination against women and biased rules in churches, like the issue of some churches disallowing women from attending night sessions, or of disallowing them from foot-washing rituals despite Pope Francis changing the rules to allow women to take part in this as well. In the future, the group also aims to address male domination in churches. Just personally, I’m less preoccupied with all the ways in which it will help women attend church and take part in church rituals, and more interested in its future plan of smashing male domination in churches.
It’s clear that this would a welcome development. Back in March, when we were talking about a fledgling plan to allow nuns to hear confessions instead of churches, many of the Christian women we spoke to mentioned the misogyny and sexism of priests, and reports of sexual harassment, while discussing the issue. Kerala itself was plagued early this year by a terrible case of child rape by a priest, where the victim gave birth to a child and the priest used his clout to actually convince the child’s father to tell police that he had committed the rape himself. And of course, we can’t forget the Kerala priest who gave a speech where he said Satan was basically a tailor who altered women’s clothes and that women who wear jeans should be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea. All of things show us that Kerala churches have a huge problem with misogyny, and this new group could be an excellent way of combatting it.