Sr Jesme, who left the robes of a nun ten years ago, is pleased to see the support the survivor is receiving from other sisters.

The survivor is fighting for all of us Whistleblower Sr Jesme joins nuns protestPhoto: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair
news Nuns’ protests Wednesday, September 12, 2018 - 16:37
Written by  Cris

Ten years ago, when Sister Jesme decided to leave the robes of a nun and go out into society, she had nobody to turn to. Her mother, who had initially supported her decision, later changed her mind when Jesme became the centre of media attention.

“She was scared that the church will ban all the sacraments to my family,” Sr Jesme tells TNM, as she joins the protest meeting in Thiruvananthapuram held in support of the nun sexually harassed allegedly by the Bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal.

Jesme is pleased to see the support this nun is getting, something she hadn’t seen ten years ago. Things were worse, she shares.

“I was called a prostitute. That’s alright, I thought. A society may still be kind to a prostitute. But I was branded a mad woman. Who will give a mad person a job or a place to stay? If I said on a mic I am not mad, I would have been taken straight to a mental asylum. So, then I used a pen and wrote Amen, my autobiography. Its 25th version is being printed now,” Jesme said at the protest meeting.

The nun who has accused Fr Mulakkal of sexual harassment is getting so much support now, because there are others who are suffering just like her, Jesme says. The illicit relationships, the inappropriate jokes they are at the receiving end of, even the way they are looked at, are enough for the sisters to understand.

However, they may not be as courageous as the complainant nun to speak out. “They consider this sister as their leader. She is not fighting for herself, she is fighting for all of them.”

Sr Jesme at the protest meeting in Thiruvananthapuram

The former nun is not surprised to hear about the circulars issued by various church authorities in Kerala asking nuns not to participate in the protest against the Jalandhar Bishop. This culture of silencing everyone who dared to talk against the church has been there from the beginning, Sr Jesme tells us.

“In Catholic houses, we are not allowed to speak anything against any priest or nun. Whatever happens, we should not speak, for ‘a curse may befall us.’ In old and new testaments, there are biblical statements saying priests are holy people. So, whoever speaks against these holy people will be punished and cursed. But that is about innocent and holy priests. When the holy priests are found to be unholy, we start discussing,” she says.

Even now, she says, her younger sister is not willing to discuss the topic (of the accused Bishop) at home.

“They don’t want to discuss it. It is the same thing happening inside the convent. We are not supposed to speak about these things. Sr Abhaya’s case too, no one was interested to discuss it inside the convent. I used to, when I went for seminars and all. I used to tell other nuns, if the Abhaya murder case is proved, we shouldn’t put it behind us, but face the humiliation. But they don’t understand. In fact, I got a call from the US. An old American priest was telling me, ‘Sister, you are talking nonsense about Sr Abhaya. She had become pregnant, so she jumped into the well’. I was surprised that this story invented by the convent people had even reached as far as the United States.”

In the present case too, rumours were floated about the rape survivor nun. Sr Jesme says, “Even if there was an illicit relationship, that doesn’t excuse the bishop’s actions. I have heard a statement in a Malayalam movie called Father’s Day. ‘A woman cannot bear it if even a strand of her hair is touched without her consent.’ That’s what men, especially ones like PC George, should understand. They should be reborn as a woman, only then would they understand the real feelings of a woman.”

(All photos by Sreekesh Raveendran Nair)

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