Monday 04 December 2023

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Heart Talk

Rape and Forgiveness


A nun testifies by her life that sex is not what it’s all about. Yes, sex is good, but even for healthy, sexually-active people, it doesn’t define a person nor constitute who she is. Further, for those who make the chastity vow, celibacy is something that is most sacrosanct and inviolable.

Rape against women in our country is a massive problem, and India is fast acquiring the dubious distinction of being the “rape-capital of the world”.  According to the country's National Crime Record Bureau, the number of rapes against women has increased by 7.1 % since 2010.  Nearly one in three rape victims in India is under the age of 18.  Every 20 minutes in India, a woman is raped. But the rapists have become so barbaric that neither the age nor the habit the woman wears seems like any deterrent. The recent incident of the brutal gang rape of a 71-year-old nun in West Bengal is as shocking as it is atrocious. Years ago, the ghastly incident of another young nun who was attacked, gang-raped and paraded semi-naked through the streets in Kandhamal, Orissa, by religious fanatics and lunatics, is still fresh in our minds.


A “Catholic nun” is a woman who lives a contemplative life in a monastery. Her ministry and prayer life is centered within and around the monastery for the good of the world. A “Catholic sister”, on the other hand, is a woman who lives, ministers, and prays within the world. She is engaged in taking the Gospel to others where they are. In ordinary conversation, the terms "nun" and "sister" are often used interchangeably but in popular culture, the term "nun" is more widely used and immediately understood to refer to women who have professed the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity.

Chastity, admittedly, is not an easy thing to grasp especially in our society.  Basically, it means abstaining from sexual relations. But its meaning goes deeper than “merely” not having sex. Nuns make a conscious choice of how they want to be and relate to people in the world. Whereas a married, sexually-active person gives herself/himself to a spouse and to a family, a nun gives herself to her relationship with God. Being celibate leaves a nun “free” to go where God and her community calls her to go. There’s also a counter-cultural dimension to the vow of celibacy. A nun testifies by her life that sex is not what it’s all about. Yes, sex is good, but even for healthy, sexually-active people, it doesn’t define a person nor constitute who she is. Further, for those who make the chastity vow, celibacy is something that is most sacrosanct and inviolable. When a nun is raped she suffers a double blow. The trauma (physical and mental) is beyond words; it inflicts deep gashes and God alone can “bind the wounds and heal the brokenhearted”.


In the recent West Bengal incident, according to the complaint lodged by the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in Ranaghat town, some 80 km from Kolkata, seven to eight armed robbers overpowered the security guard and stormed its compound on March 14 around 2.30am. The guard was tied up. Holding a pistol to his head, the gang forced its way into the main building. The gang tried to destroy a CCTV camera near the gate but failed. The staff-room CCTV has captured the faces of four robbers.

"The gang then moved to the first floor where the nuns have their residential quarters. A senior sister resisted them when they tried to loot valuables and cash. She was sexually assaulted," a source said. "The violence went on for more than an hour. It was nearly dawn by the time they left. The screams of the nuns alerted locals and they helped move the injured nun to hospital.''

Questions are being raised over the role of police. Sources said the missionary school had sought protection from Gangnapur police station nearly a fortnight before but the officers did nothing. In fact, there is a police outpost just 100 meters from the school that is supposed to carry out regular patrols. “The robbers carried out the rape and rampage inside the school for over an hour but no policeman bothered to check”, school authorities said.


“There are so many unanswered questions. Why would the offenders, after looting the money, go on to vandalize the church or rape a septuagenarian nun? And when the men can be identified on CCTV, why have the culprits not been traced?

Herod Mullick, state working president of the All India Christian Council said the attack appeared part of a trend. “It is evident that the attackers had a motive other than robbing the place. There are similarities to incidents in Delhi and Bengaluru,” he said.

 West Bengal Minister Hakim blamed growing intolerance and religious fanaticism in West Bengal. "Religious intolerance in the name of Ghar Wapsi is at work, sometimes in Odisha and sometimes in Bengal. This may be one of the reasons. Such heinous criminals should be shot dead but our law does not permit this. The Bengal government believes the criminals should be hanged to death," he said"

BJP district president Kalyan Kumar Nandi said fingers shouldn’t be pointed at his party for the attack. “We demand the strictest punishment for whoever is responsible irrespective of their political affiliation. If need be, a CBI probe should be held. Some leaders are trying to portray it as a deed of the BJP and RSS and that’s wrong”.

The Archbishop of Calcutta, however, is not willing to jump to the "ghar wapsi" complaint as yet. "The matter should be investigated. It could have been dacoity and rape and nothing to do with conversion. Investigations, hopefully, will reveal the motive of the crime," Archbishop Thomas D'Souza said.

Mamata chose her words carefully: "We strongly condemn the incident that took place at the Ranaghat convent. We have ordered a CID probe that will examine all aspects of this horrific crime. The government will take swift, strongest possible action against the culprits." The state government has announced Rs 1 lakh reward for the capture of the rapists, said SP Arnab Ghosh.

Massive protests erupted against the gangrape. In a spontaneous outpouring of revulsion the unprecedented crowd that had gathered at Nadia even detained Mamata’s convoy for fifteen minutes and demanded that the Government nabs the and punishes the culprits without delay.

Meanwhile, ripples of the gangrape are said to have reached even the Vatican City and the articles and opinions on the online portal of the Vatican Radio have reportedly gone viral.


Being raped, regardless of the circumstances, inflicts trauma on the victim beyond words. Losing virginity to rape can add an extra layer of pain to an already horrific experience. To a nun her vow of virginity is so precious that the impact of its loss through rape can be particularly devastating.

According to reports, “the 71-year-old nun couldn’t hide her pain while she sobbed: "Dil mein dard hai (My heart is broken)." But even as she recovered from the brutal attack, she forgave the culprits.

The young Orissa nun -- referred to above – who was raped and paraded naked in 2008 also forgave the perpetrators of the horrendous crime. Over time, sources say, she has struggled to slowly put the past behind her to start a new life. Today she is lovingly being cared by senior nuns in another convent. “We are all standing behind her, ready to provide all possible support”, said the sister superior. In 2012, she went on to earn a master’s degree in psychology. She now wants to study law to “help women and children in distress”.


All of us suffer some injuries from experiences that seem to have no rhyme or reason. We cannot understand or explain them. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to God. But because it happens, it must be endured. God alone knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.”

It is paradoxical that, “only by finding forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, that we can rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being”. But, then, isn’t the entire world full of paradoxes? 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Blogger's Profile


Dr Francisco Colaco

Dr Fracisco Colaco is a renowned cardiologist and nationally acclaimed eco-cardiographer. He is a pioneer in eco-cardiology in Goa. Also a social activist. He has passion for music and dance.


Previous Post