Gender Justice and Its Impediments

Public support for the protesting nuns in Kerala signals hope for the cause of gender justice.

The recent protest by five nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation on behalf of a fellow nun, who has accused the former Bishop of Jalandhar of sexually abusing her several times over the course of two years, has placed the Catholic Church of Kerala under serious moral scrutiny. It has not only revealed the church’s objectionable attitude towards the issue of gender justice, but has also exposed the sceptical approach that the state seems to have adopted regarding it. This context, therefore, forces one to take due cognisance of two rather striking ­aspects of the protest. First is the nuns’ protest, which appears unusual on account of their ability to demonstrate exemplary courage against the religious institution to which they belong by faith and practice. Second, the nun’s legitimate cry for justice has also sought to galvanise the larger community that stood in solidarity with her. Arriving on the heels of the #MeToo movement, and amidst global allegations of sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests and high-level cover-ups, Kerala’s “Church Too” movement locates itself within one of the most divisive crises facing the Catholic Church today. But, at the heart of the protests is the question of justice and the impediments that seem to have led to the denial of gender justice.

The sphere of the sacred, by definition, is supposed to empty out from within a person the destructive elements of the sensual and libidinal. In a normative sense, the church is expected to protect the dignity—constitutive of both, the moral and physical integrity—of a person, in the present case, the nun. It is perhaps with this expectation in the structures of the church that the nun petitioned the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Apostolic Nuncio of India, and church officials in Rome, including the Vatican state secretary and the Pope. It seems that there was some response on the part of the church authorities, but this was clearly in favour of the accused bishop and positively against the nun. The church’s much delayed intervention led injustice to take a morally more offensive form. This was evident in the ensuing character assassination of the nun, suggesting the biased role of the church in the subversion of the process of justice. It is interesting to note that the Kerala High Court has now rejected the bail plea of the bishop citing prima facie evidence against him, and casting doubt on the merit of the church’s internal inquiry into the matter.

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Updated On : 9th Oct, 2018

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