Five days after a Kerala court’s acquittal of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of sexually assaulting a nun between 2014 and 2016, social media was full of handwritten letters from people expressing solidarity with the survivor and the nuns of Kuravilangad convent in Kerala.
The judgment, while acquitting Franco, also engaged in victim shaming, and discredited the survivor nun. And while the judgment initially acknowledges that the bishop had power over the nun in the context of the church – an institution which gives paramount importance to sexual “chastity” to be part of a convent – it failed to take the fiduciary relationship into consideration and discredited the survivor.
Many people including singer Chinmayi Sripaada, writers KR Meera, Sachitanandan, Sunil P Ilayidom, NS Madhavan, actors like Parvathy, Rima Kallingal, Divya Gopinath, Apoorva Bose, television personality Ranjini Haridas, filmmakers Geethu Mohandas and Leena Manimekalai, journalists Shahina KK, Rohini Mohan, Anna MM Vetticad, Leena Reghunath, Ammu Joseph, Laxmi Murthy, Sandhya Menon, Mitali Mukherjee and activists including J Devika, Sunitha Krishnan, Civic Chandran expressed support and solidarity with the survivor and the nuns supporting her, calling out the injustice and misogyny in the verdict.
“It can get deafeningly loud, the injustice and hopelessness we feel. I wish to sit with you here, and just tell you…all you need to do at the moment is honour your breath. Stay here… and when you can and feel like looking around you, you’ll find us, an army by your side. We are here to walk this thorny path with you, holding space for you, fighting for you and breathing with you,” wrote Parvathy in her letter.
“You are our hero. Please know that you’re not alone, you have your sisters who have stood with you and walked with you as well, and we stand with you. We will always be there for you. You are loved, respected and honoured. There will be light at the end of this really dark tunnel,” wrote Chinmayi.
“In my deepest dark moments you women have inspired me, have felt the presence of your heart and fight to lift my spirits,” wrote Rima Kallingal in her note.
The campaign titled ‘Withthenuns’ and ‘Avalkoppam’ (we stand with her) was started by a group of women on Wednesday and within a few hours, nearly 600 letters from people who stood by the nun were received. The first batch of 200 letters were printed and delivered to the convent by January 20 morning where the survivor nun is currently residing.