Abhaya case: Church group urges protection of nun’s dignity

December 9th, 2008 - 10:40 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) A Christian organisation has urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to protect the dignity of a nun whom the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) allegedly subjected to a virginity test while probing the 1992 murder of Kerala nun Sister Abhaya.Sister Seffi, 45, was arrested along with two priests - Father Thomas Kottur and Father Jose Poothrikkayil - by the CBI for her alleged role in Abhaya’s killing. Abhaya, a resident of Pious X Hostel, was found dead in the well of the Kottayam convent March 27, 1992.

The CBI, in its report submitted to a Kerala court, said the three hit Abhaya with an axe after she saw something that may have been unbefitting of them. The investigating agency claims the three committed the murder to cover up their sexual relations.

“Having failed in establishing loss of virginity, the investigating agency accused Sister Seffi of undergoing manipulative surgery to mislead the investigation. The tone and tenor of this sort of accusation smacks the standards and credibility of the premier investigation agency of India,” says a statement by Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India website.

The CBI, while submitting the results of the nun’s virginity to the court, said it had been conducted with the written consent of Seffi.

The arrested nun’s virginity could not be ascertained “as there is surgical interference observed on the hymen,” according to the CBI report of the test conducted in a government medical college.

Sister Seffi’s lawyer told the court Dec 5 that the CBI subjected her to a virginity test without her consent.

“The acts of the investigation officers are not in the interest of dispensation of justice,” George said.

In a letter to the chairperson of NHRC, Justice (Retd) Rajender Babu, the GCIC said that appropriate action should be taken to protect the human dignity of Seffi.

“We appeal to the commission to help the traumatised Catholic nun,” he said.

Father Paul Thelakat, spokesperson for the Syro-Malabar Church (SMC), told the official Catholic press that CBI’s action was a clear violation of human rights.

“The Church is not demanding that Sister Seffi be treated as someone above the law, but that such a test cannot be conducted without a woman’s consent,” he said.

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