Two church priests accused of sexually exploiting a 34-year-old housewife in Kerala’s Kottayam for years surrendered before the police in Kollam on Monday, a week after the Supreme Court rejected their pleas for bail.
The top court had directed them to surrender by August 13 while rejecting their petitions.
Sony Varghese and Jasie K George surrendered before the police commissioner of Kollam in south Kerala and were later handed over to the team investigating the case.
They are among the four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, who were allegedly involved in sexually exploiting the woman. Two of them were arrested earlier.
The crime branch of the state police had booked them last month following the allegation by the homemaker that they had raped her by exploiting a confessional statement she had made to one of them.
The mother of two has said in her statement to the police that Father Varghese, one of her distant relatives, first assaulted her during a prayer meeting when she was 16. She related the incident to the second priest, Father Job Mathew, during a confession after she got married in 2009.
Father Mathew allegedly used her confession to sexually exploit her too. Later, he shared the information with two of his colleagues – Jasie K George and Jonson V Mathew – who also joined him in blackmailing her, she said in her complaint.
However, the accused priests have denied her charges vehemently saying they were trapped.
The National Commission for Women Rekha Sharma, who met the victim, had kicked off a big controversy after she sought a ban on confessions.
This is the first time the police have registered a case on the basis of a confession, which is considered as one of the seven sacraments of the church.
Religious reformers cite police records to state that these are not isolated incidents. As many as 12 priests have been arrested from various parts of the state for allegedly abusing minors and raping women over the last few months, they point out.
The victims, for their part, allege that church authorities often try to hush up complaints instead of exposing the guilty.