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Women’s panel to monitor sexual abuse case against priests

Thiruvalla (Kerala): The National Commission for Women (NCW), which took suo motu cognisance of a woman’s allegation of sexual exploitation by five priests of the Kottayam-headquartered Malankara Orthodox Church, on Saturday said that they will closely monitor the case.

NCW member Rekha Sharma met the victim at her house in the presence of her close relatives and found out from her about the case. She later told the media that it was most unfortunate that these priests have misused their position.

“It’s to be noted that one of the accused passed on the information to the other accused about the victim. I will be calling them as hooligans, as they have misused their position. We will ask the head of the Church why these things are happening,” she said.

The victim’s husband had complained that one of the priests who first exploited his wife was blackmailing her. When she sought help from another priest, he too threatened her and shared her contact with a fellow priest and, in the end, she came under duress from at least five priests.

An online portal first reported the story last week and it led to tremendous pressure on the Church from several quarters, especially social media, and it announced an internal probe.

However, the NCW took up the case, asking Kerala police chief Loknath Behera to send a report on the case.

Behera launched a Crime Branch investigation into the case and all five priests involved are now on the run.

Two of them who approached the Kerala High Court this week for anticipatory bail failed to get any relief, with the court posting the matter for Monday and police are awaiting the outcome of the court’s decision on their plea.

Even though initially five priests were accused, a case was filed against four people only with a senior officer saying the woman had only named four priests in her complaint.

Meanwhile, after the case hit the headlines, two other women from the same Orthodox church have now come out in the open stating that they too were exploited by two other priests. They have decided to file a criminal case soon as their complaint to the church authorities fell on deaf ears.

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