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Kerala nun alleges sexual harassment in convents

Friday, 20 February 2009 - 6:11pm IST | Place: Thiruvananthapuram | Agency: PTI

Lesbian relations are quite common in many of the convents, where nuns often get bonded as pairs for emotional and physical relief, Jesme alleged.

As a tell-all autobiography of a former nun revealing alleged sexual abuse threatened to embarass the Catholic church in Kerala, the woman herself said on Friday that the society has "every right" to know what is happening to Sisters.

In her memoirs in Malayalam titled "Amen" (so be it, said by Christians at the end of every prayer), 'Sister' Jesme alleged that harassment, sexual repression, exploitation of nuns by priests and clandestine same sex relations take place behind the closed doors of convents.

The Catholic Church is silent on the book and is yet to make its official response to the tell-all reminiscences of the 52-year-old Jesme holding they would react only after studying the book. But the book released two days ago is being lapped up and selling like hotcakes.

Narrating how deeply disappointed and disillusioned she is after choosing the religious vocation on her own volition at a very young age, Jesme exposes the power struggles in the 'dark confines' of convents she had lived for about 30 years and in corridors of church administration.

An English professor and later the principal of a church-run college in Thrissur, Jesme quit the convent last year after what she said years of 'sufferings and struggles.'

"I wanted an outlet for my experiences of my trauma...Society has every right to know what is happening to Sisters," Jesme said dismissing suggestions she has sensationalised issues to get cheap publicity. 

"We do not want to react to it without properly studying the book. We will come out with our response in a day or two", Vicar General of Thrissur Diocese Father Rafael Thattil said when the church's views on the book were sought.

Jesme, who continues her religious life or 'sanayas' even after leaving the convent, said the aim of the book was not just selling something juicy but 'open a little window to allow some light to enter into the silent sufferings of hundreds of women.'

"When a woman is molested only one in thousand will speak out. Then think of the nuns, they will not speak out the truth", Jesme, now staying in  Kozhikode, said.

"I wanted to tell, the people should know I have written it, something about capitation fee, something about what hatred and quarrels we have inside the convent, it is about some sort of homosexualty, it is about some sort of heterosexualty," she said.

Jesme's book has come out at a time when the Catholic church in Kerala is in an awkward situation following the arrest of two nuns in the Sister Abhaya case and the suicide of Sister Anupa Mary in a convent in Kollam, who was allegedly a victim of sexual abuse by a senior nun.

Jesme's friend and lawyer RK Asha, who helped in the writing of the book, said the work was not meant to tarnish the church's image as alleged by certain quarters.

"She had shown courage to expose the unholy things happening in convents and whatever she had written are truths", Asha said.

Lesbian relations are quite common in many of the convents, where nuns often get bonded as pairs for emotional and physical relief, Jesme alleged.

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