By Maya Palit
A 37-year-old adivasi woman from Kanapur, a village in Madhya Pradesh, was raped by a priest (reports do not indicate which clergy or church he belonged to) named Hanop Alexander on the church premises. According to news reports, the incident took place around midnight, when she left her house (also on the church premises) and was abducted by the priest and taken to his room. The priest fled on his motorcycle after the incident and has been absconding since, but the police managed to book him for rape, and are on the look-out.
The rampant abuse of women carried out by members of the clergy, at least in the Catholic Church, is hardly a new issue, and a new incident surfaces practically every couple of months. In November last year, for instance, a woman in Kozhikode was forced to file a police complaint after internal complaints to her bishop about a sexually abusive priest was ignored for months. A month later, another priest from the Kottappauram Catholic diocese was given a double life term under the POCSO Act for raping a minor girl, while a government doctor was accused of colluding with him and failing to report the abuse.
And last month, Outlook published an extensive report examining why priests accused of rape and assault appear to be actively protected by the Church. A member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) reiterated that the Church’s official position is staunchly against sexual offence or harassment, but was unable to hide the fact that the Church has been lackadaisical and slow-moving in instituting an official sexual harassment policy in accordance with the Vishakha guidelines. So until the endlessly deferred policy on harassment, or some other concrete guidelines for handling sexual assault is put in place, it’s hard to take the CBCI’s statements about cleaning up the mess caused by the neglect of abuse cases.