Children and women as sex objects

Children and women as sex objects

Asia seems to have been left out of abuse scandals so far. But for the U.S.-based Catholic News Service, it's "only a matter of time" before the Asian church is also covered.

In recent years, cases of sexual misconduct by priests, nuns and priests have repeatedly come to light from India to the Philippines – but also by Hindu gurus, Muslim imams and Buddhist monks in India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. With the exception of the majority Catholic countries of East Timor and the Philippines, Christians of all denominations are small minorities in the countries of South and Southeast Asia.

Especially in India, sex scandals of priests are increasingly coming to light. A Catholic bishop has even been charged with raping a religious woman in the state of Kerala. The public's eyes are also on India because Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay (Mumbai) and president of the Indian Bishops' Conference, is one of the two chairs of the upcoming Vatican anti-abuse summit.

Prere from the Catholic and media public

For Indian Jesuit and human rights activist Cedric Prakash, the cardinal is the right man in the right place. "I spoke to Cardinal Gracias only recently," Prakash said in an interview with Catholic News Agency (KNA). "He has a firm policy against abuse." But Prakash also acknowledges that some Indian bishops still lack "spiritual will" in handling abuse cases.

Under prere from Catholic and media public opinion, the Kerala Bishops' Conference this month ied a decree on the protection of children in church institutions. In addition, in mid-February a 51-year-old Catholic priest in Kerala was sentenced to 60 years in prison for raping underage girls.

Mumbai-based Catholic theologian Virginia Saldanha is not convinced by the measures taken by the Indian Bishops' Conference and its president against abuse. "No framework or structure has been created for handling reports of abuse, nor have measures against abuse been made publicly available to people," the 71-year-old women's rights activist told the CBA.

Women and children in Asian societies with a hard stand

Among other Asian countries, Archbishop Simon Poh Hoon Seng of Kuching in Malaysia and Archbishop William Goh of Singapore have taken the clearest positions against abuse. In the Philippines, Sister Mary John Mananzan knows of many cases of abuse of "boys, girls, nuns and other women". However, the bishops' conference is "not responding to this in an appropriate way," Catholic media quoted the activist and former co-chair of the Association of Religious Superiors as saying.

Women and children have a hard time in Asian societies. The Philippines is considered a pedophile's paradise and is a global leader in online sex with children and child porn on the Internet. In India, rape of children is almost a sad daily occurrence. "Children and women in Asian societies are not only seen as sexual objects, but are considered inferior to men," says Saldanha.

In February 2018, the Southeast Asia Globe magazine, published in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ventured into the taboo subject of child sexual abuse in Buddhist monasteries with an investigative story – the scale of which it compared to the global church abuse scandal.

Sexual abuse a taboo subject in Asia

For two cultural reasons, sexual abuse is a taboo subject in Asia: respect for powerful people and, as Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle put it in Rome in 2012, the "culture of shame". "In Asian cultures, a person's disgrace taints the family, clan and community. Silence is therefore considered the only alternative to preserve their honor."

Virginia Saldanha, meanwhile, is in Rome with the women's organization Voices of Faith. They want to break the culture of silence, remind bishops and pope of their responsibility and demand concrete "structures to deal with abuse".

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