By Sharanya Gopinathan
Arre, where to begin yaar?
Earlier this month, Father Robin Vadakkuncheril from St Sebastian’s Church in Kottiyoor of Mananthavady diocese was arrested on charges of raping a minor girl inside the church. When the girl gave birth to the child, the priest allegedly asked the girl’s father to find somebody to take the fall for him to save the church from disgrace. In a bizarre twist in an already horrifying event, the father told police that he himself had raped his own daughter. Upon further questioning, he admitted that he actually had not raped his daughter, and had concocted this story in order to protect the priest and the church. He also says that Robin paid the girl’s medical bill in the hospital, and then tried to flee the country to Canada.
Last week, the Mananthavady diocese met to find ways to “protect the sanctity” of the church and prevent such events from happening in the future. Of course, the only measure that they have announced so far is that they will be installing CCTV cameras in all the churches, and said that the rest of the measures are still being discussed.
I can’t for the life of me understand why installing CCTV cameras is the first option people in power turn to when dealing with issues of violence against women. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal made a famous promise to install 15 lakh CCTV cameras all over the city as a means of making it safer for women (and has received tons of flak for failing to do so, but that’s another story). A move like constant city-wide surveillance by the State is a complex issue that needs active public discussion and debate before being implemented as policy, it isn’t something that should just be shoved down our throats by politicians in the guise of protecting women.
It also brings to mind a disturbing trend that came to our notice at the beginning of the year. Remember when the molestation of a Bangalore woman was caught on tape? Of course you do, because everyone shared it on every conceivable social networking and messaging platform with a frantic and creepy interest that was frankly voyeuristic, and certainly the intent behind it wasn’t entirely aimed at finding the perpetrators.
Moreover, as we’ve said before more times than we can count, of our efforts towards reducing cases of assault against women shouldn’t be aimed entirely at catching perpetrators after the fact, but at attacking and dismantling the structures of power, privilege and violence that cause them in the first place.