Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Kerala Scene: Girls forced to join convents?

Media reports say that the State Women’s Commission (SWC) has made, after studying a complaint it received, the following recommendations to the government regarding admitting nuns to the convents:

  1. Ensure that girls below the age of 18 are not forcibly enrolled as nuns
  2. Implement a scheme to rehabilitate women who leave the convents.

There cannot be any dispute on these. In fact, the first point should apply to marriages as well. No person should be compelled to act against her/his will. It is worthwhile noting here that a Catholic marriage is annulled by the Church if defective consent is proved.

Another suggestion by the SWC is that a girl’s share of her family wealth should remain in her own name and not vest with the convent she joins. This can raise some questions.

Would it interfere with the fundamental right of citizen to handle his/her wealth? What about the many poor girls who join as nuns? How would they be provided for? When a person joins a community with full consent is not that person bound to follow the rules of that community? Can there be a meaningful religious group consisting of rich members and poor members?

To a lay mind the effect of this recommendation would be that a nun’s share of her ancestral property could go to anyone else or to the government but not to the convent of which she is a member. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.

The SWC affirms that it does not want to tamper with matters relating to faith.

The major churches in Kerala have come out with clarifications:

  1. No person under the age of 18 can be accepted as priest or nun.
  2. Only if there were full consent their training would start.
  3. There is no compulsion that a girl should donate her share of the family wealth to the convent she joins.
  4. Even after the final wows are taken, a person can leave the vocation.
  5. Help is extended for rehabilitating those who leave the convents.

The Church authorities should have explained all these to the SWC. But it is not clear whether they were given a chance to do so.


Also see: Vedas, Syrian Christians


Jay said...

Hope you have read the manorama editorial on this subject. They say that SWC is wasting their time on this issue while there are other crucial matters to look into, in the state. As they say, proabably, nothing of this sort - the conditions listed by SWC- is happening in any of the religious institutions in Kerala now.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Jay, I have seen the editorial. What struck me was that the SWC spent so much time on one complaint, which in my opinion, should have been handed over to the police for appropriate action.

In all fairness, the 'accused' also should have been heard before reaching a conclusion.

anjali said...

This was spawned from the dowry system. I love your blogs Sir. Please keep writing.

Abraham Tharakan said...

anjali, thank you so much; I'm happy that you like my blog. Please do keep visiting.

'Dowry system' does not exist any more in Kerala. Illegal. It is now called 'share'! Labels make a difference.

srijita said...

My investigative project is on this topic.. i m a student of Manorama school of communication, kottayam. your blog has been informative

Abraham Tharakan said...

srijita, I am happy that you found my blog post useful for your project. The fact that you extended your research to blogs as well, shows that you are applying yourself to the task.
Perhaps you would be interested in my post on Mr. VP Ramachandran, former Director of the Kerala Press Academy. It depicts how he became a leading journalist against all odds.
You can either search for VP Ramachandran or use the link
Let me wish you all the best in your career.