Last week, for three days, there was some buzz around how the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women in India had suggested that the practice of confessions in Churches be banned.
This suggestion was generated with a particular case in mind – a Christian woman had allegedly been sexually exploited by four priests after she had confessed about how she was raped. So after the woman revealed she was raped, the priests sexually exploited and blackmailed her.
But for the women’s panel to suggest that banning confessions would help reduce sexual exploitation smacks of ridiculous naievity.
As soon as I read the news article, another case came rushing back to my memory. A school girl had been gangraped by several students and when she brought the matter to the principal’s notice, he too raped her. She was in fact raped and blackmailed by over a dozen people, including teachers for almost six months. So what would the solution be? That students stop reporting such cases to their teachers?!
Coming back to the Church story, the suggestion by a member of the women’s panel that confessions be banned obviously invited a lot of flak from the Christian community. And while I am not even religious, the suggestion is indeed frivolous.
Case in point was the school example. That case is not an isolated one. Several rape stories have come out in the newspapers, where victims reveals how letting one person know what happened to them triggered a cycle of exploitation. But can you just ban victims from revealing their ordeal to someone they think they can trust?
If a woman is sexually exploited, she must file a police complaint. Confession is a voluntary act by a believer, nobody is obliged to reveal such things to a priest. And ideally, serious matters like rape must be reported to the cops. Confessions or no confessions.