Report and Final Statement of the 3rd National Consultation on Gender Relations in the Church and Society
As foretold in our June newsletter, a national consultation was held at Atmadharshan, Mumbai (East), on August 9-11, 2013. The theme was “Living ‘Nirbhaya”: Towards a Violence Free Society. There were 44 participants consisted of priests, women and men religious and laity from across the country. Archbishop Dominic Lumen of Imphal, Bishop Agnello Gracias, auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai Arch Diocese and Sr. Rita Pinto RSCJ, National President of CRI Sister’s section encouraged the group with their participation. Below is a summary of their report. The final statement is attached as well in pdf.
“In line with the vigorous public discourse and protest following the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old in Delhi and many such incidents, the consultation focused on change of mindset and asserted that equality between women and men is a human right issue and a theological imperative. All the 44 participants, including the bishops, agreed that the consultation has reignited a sense of commitment in us to the cause of gender justice as a follower of our LORD. The group felt that there is an urgency for consciousness-raising on gender-equality and mutuality in the church. Some of the suggestions came up are:
- Introducing sex-education/gender education in the educational Institutions and other faith formation programs for children, youth and adults.
- Gender sensitized priests could use the pulpit to create awareness on issues of gender-violence and sexual violence so that the people can address these issues in their families, work place, etc.
- It is highly recommended that the ‘Gender policy’ is brought into the formation program in seminaries and other formation houses as part of the curriculum.
- It is important that every parish has some mechanism to identify the cases of abuse and deal with the issues. The community centres, family commission, youth commission, women’s cell etc. can give a lead on this and these can network with other NGOs or groups that have greater competence on this.
- Ecumenical and inter-religious groups comprising women and men who want to address gender-violence and create mutuality and partnerships in man-woman relationships can be initiated outside the church circles and these can network with other secular groups committed to the cause of gender-justice.
- Ensure marriage preparation programme with one or two follow-ups after marriage. Expand the issues dealt with to include gender sensitivity, compatibility, mutuality-reciprocity, use of contraceptives, etc.
- It is important to create/initiate alternative spaces for consciousness-raising and interventions. Movements linking individuals, groups, organizations with a feminist thinking in to a larger network can facilitate this. A grass-root based movement ‘Women for Change,’ which is already initiated, can be a platform for this.
- Most important is change of mindset through personal commitment.
- Dissemination of information, Making use of existing forums like seminaries, Superior’s forum, and women commission to talk and discuss about the issue wherever possible.