CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Indian bishops issue guidelines to deal with sex abuse

NEW DEHLI (UCAN): The Catholic Bishops Conference of India released its Guidelines to Deal with Sexual Harassment at the Workplace, the first such initiative, in New Delhi on September 14. The Council for Women of the bishops’ conference framed the guidelines.
 
Apart from Church institutions, all dioceses, parishes and religious congregations are to institute complaints committees to which a case of sexual harassment can be reported.
 
The committees are to conduct a preliminary enquiry and crimes are to be reported to the police.
 
The guidelines call for all kinds of abuse, including abuse by clergy, sexual harassment of men and abuse of transgender men and women to be reported.
 
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary general of the bishops’ conference, said the guidelines are “not all about the laws but is an education about treatment of the other sex, the dignity and respect of one another.”
 
Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas, chairperson of the bishop’s Council for Women, stressed that the Church advocates zero tolerance against all forms of sexual abuse. He pointed out that the guidelines are “gender inclusive and are formulated to create a safe and healthy work environment without fear or prejudice.” 
 
The guidelines were put together in compliance with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act passed by the federal government in 2013.
 
The law calls for organisations and companies to formulate guidelines to prevent sexual abuse in the workplace and has stipulated action against employers who fail to comply.
India’s  National Crime Records Bureau says cases of sexual harassment doubled between 2014 and 2015 from 57 to 119.
 
Sister Talisha Nadukudiyil, secretary of the  Council for Women noted that Indian women continue to be victims of disrespect, attacks and harassment at home and at work because of “an unchanged and archaic social structure marked by patriarchy.”
 
The sister, who belongs to the Sisters of the Destitute congregation, explained that previously there was no system where victims could approach someone in case of sexual harassment but “now the internal complaint committees will help to address the issues of the victims.”
 
Presentation Sister Anastasia Gill, a member of the minorities commission in New Delhi, said women make up the main work force in most activities of the Church across the country and sexual harassment “is a reality.”
 
“The Church has now shown readiness to address this issue ourageously,” she said. 

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