Move to cover up Torturing in Christian Orphanages

published on September 2, 2008

Girls tortured at Kollam orphanage: Report

Pioneer News Service | Thiruvananthapuram

The Social Welfare Department of the Kerala Government has found out that torture of the girl inmates has been taking place at the Nithya Sahaya Matha Baalika Sadanam, an orphanage run by the St Mary’s convent of the Holy Cross order in Kottiyam, Kollam. Two girls at the orphanage had attempted to commit suicide by consuming poison on August 23 allegedly due to the torture by the convent authorities and the humiliating beahviour of an apprentice priest who had given them counseling.

A report submitted to the Social Welfare Department by M Ramla Beevi, Child Development Officer, Ithikkara, said that the convent authorities had been making the girls in the orphanage do hard works. According to the report, the authorities had also been behaving with the inmates rudely. The orphanage is for girls from poor families.

In fact, the report was presented to the department in June last, two months before the two girls had tried to commit suicide. The convent that runs the Nithya Sahaya Matha Baalika Sadanam is under the same sisters’ order to which Sr Anupa Mary, the nun who committed suicide in a convent in Port Kollam on August 11, had belonged. Both establishments comes under the Kollam diocese of the Catholic Church.

The report by the Child Development Officer, prepared after detailed inquiries following the complaints from the father of an inmate, said that the girls in the orphanage were being made to clean the toilets, scrub floors of the building, clean the cattle sheds and to collect fodder grass for the cows in the convent.

The report also said that the girls were not being given even the minimum medical helps in time of need. The inquiry also revealed that the girls were being given non-nutritious foods. It said that the only food served for the girls all the three times was rice gruel and some cheap, low-quality pulses. It also said that the convent authorities had misbehaved with the inmates.

One of the girls who tried to commit suicide had told the district child welfare committee that they were not being treated well. The girl had also said that they had tried to commit suicide due to the humiliating statements and provocations from an apprentice priest, Benedict, during a counseling session. The Kottiyam police have registered a case against Benedict from the Thiruvananthapuram diocese of the Catholic Church. A third girl, who had undergone the counseling by Benedict, had said that the apprentice priest had talked to them indecently.

The girl had deposed before Child Welfare committee chairperson S Leela that the reason for trying to take the extreme step was the mental torture they suffered at the hands of Benedict. She told the committee that the apprentice priest, who had visited the convent several times and had taught them dance and song, had talked in a tone laced with sexuality.

She said that he had compelled them to vouch by the rosary that they were lust-laden. She also said that torture was usual in the orphanage, where there were problems regarding matters like food and clothing. She complained that inmates were made to do hard works.

Leela said cases would be initiated against the Sadanam authorities and Benedict on the basis of the girl’s statement and that the first information report would be presented to the magistrate. The committee had also decided not to send the girl back to the orphanage and it sent her with a relative since the girl’s mother is in the Gulf.

Sources in the Child Welfare Department said that they had been getting several complaints from such orphanages but they were not ready to connect such incidents with any particular religion. They said there were also complaints that people without required qualifications were doing counseling and this was causing problems to the children.

Sources said that the department would think of having coordination with the Home Department in the wake of more and more such complaints coming up.

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