Former Employee Sexually Harassed By Church Influential Members for 4 Years, Karnataka Southern Diocese Allegedly Refused to Take Action

Abused Woman
Pixabay/Diana Cibotari

Two influential members of the congregation of Church of South India's Karnataka Southern Diocese (CSI-KSD) are accused of sexually harassing a former female employee of the diocese. The suspects allegedly sabotage the victim's work by withholding her income. Yet, the incident did not prompt the church to take any action.

Sexual Misconduct on Church's Former Employee

After 30 union negotiations, the South India United Church, which was a merged organization of Presbyterians and Congregationalists, the Anglican Dioceses in South India, and the South Indian districts of the Methodist Church finally came together in 1947 to form the Church of South India, World Council of Churches stated.

Affirming that the denomination is the servant of God to carry out the mission anchored in Jesus Christ and founded on the scriptures constitutes an element of the mission statement of the Church of South India (CSI). Through its work in the world, the church shows its sympathy with the shattered communities that are looking for a new hope to face life's problems. As a vibrant instrument of God, the witnessing church seeks unity, peace, and reconciliation under the cross.

Despite these values, according to Aadhan, an ex-worker of the CSI-KSD has leveled allegations of sexual harassment against prominent members of the Church of South India, most notably the treasurer Vincent Palanna and the legal advisor Noel Karkada. The alleged victim, Sushma, claims that she was subjected to unwanted advances, molestation, psychological harassment, being exposed to explicit content, and blackmail for four years. However, the church had not taken any action despite the complaints.

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Organizations' Protest to Support Sexual Accusation of the Victim

Based on an article from The New Minute, to show their support for the victim, the Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Odanadi Seva Samsthe, which is based in Mysuru, and the Forum Against Atrocities on Women (FAAW) staged a demonstration together on Wednesday, May 31. Since August 2022, the victim has been holding protests in front of the bishop's office to obtain justice and appropriate reinstatement. In addition, she has been petitioning both within the church and with the labor commissioner. However, the results of her efforts have not been particularly fruitful so far.

Accordingly, the victim stated that she had been harassed by Vincent for four years, both physically and psychologically. Additionally, the survivor claimed that Vincent tried to fire her from her employment. Sushma also said that Noel Karkada had her watch a pornographic movie and hugged her against her will. Moreover, Vincent and Noel threatened her when she declined to cooperate with their requests. It is stated that as she protested and opposed their acts, they ramped up their harassment by undermining her work, jeopardizing her employment, not paying her income, and causing her substantial emotional distress. Sushma also claimed she was prevented from drafting essential documents and excluded from significant duties.

In April of 2022, Noel was granted further influence within the organization when he was appointed the chaplain and secretary of the bishop. This appointment made the situation even more complicated. The following month, the victim got a letter disputing her employment due to a supposed absence of a mandatory postgraduate qualification. Sushma was further targeted and alienated due to these activities, which contributed to a hostile climate at work. On the other hand, on Tuesday, on Mar. 7, Sushma filed a complaint with the police, citing multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those about sexual harassment, assault, and criminal intimidation. The case was registered. Although it was discovered that the accused had acquired a stay order from the High Court, which temporarily halted the proceedings, an inquiry was launched regardless of this fact.

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