After efforts to persuade the Catholic church in India to deal with sexual abuse of women by clergy, and upset over the church's slow progress, a group of Christian women, mostly Catholics, announced steps for addressing the issue on their own.
"We should move outside the church to seek answers to abuse cases. We should treat this problem as a crime and take recourse to the law," said Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a lay woman theologian.
Gajiwala, who heads the women's collective Satyashodak (meaning "seekers of truth"), made these remarks at a recent national seminar that studied the impact of religion and culture on the empowerment of women from an Indian perspective.
About 50 people, including a few men, attended the Sept. 23-26 meeting in Hyderabad, the capital of the southern Indian state of Telangana. The meeting was organized by Streevani ("voice of women"), an NGO managed by the Holy Spirit nuns, along with Satyashodak and three other groups engaged in women's empowerment.
The seminar coincidentally began on the same day the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India ended a three-day bi-annual meeting at Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), 355 miles south of Hyderabad. There the committee approved a set of guidelines to tackle clergy abuse cases. The guidelines have yet to be released.