A Kerala priest has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for raping and impregnating a minor girl. Father Robin Vadakkumchery was accused of rape by the Thalassery Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court in 2016.
The girl gave birth to a child in 2017 when she was studying in a school run by the church. Father Robin used to teach in the school and she was raped multiple times in 2016.
When the news came to light in 2016, the church went to great lengths to cover up the incident, including pressuring the father of the victim to state that he was the one who raped and impregnated his daughter. The victim and her mother were pressurised to say that she was 18 during the time of the incident. Due to this, they were declared as hostile witnesses by Judge PN Vinod, who was hearing the case.
"He was under such immense pressure that he was ready to take the blame and owned up to a heinous crime that he had never committed. But soon, he broke down and said that it was Father Robin's baby, and that has been established beyond doubt with DNA tests," a Childline officer was quoted as saying by The News Minute.
Some of the evidence which led the court to pass the verdict was the live birth certificate of the girl which proved the girl to be a minor at the time of the rape. Along with this, a paternity test proved the priest to be the father of the child the victim gave birth to.
In 2017, during the time of her delivery, the girl began to complain about stomach ache. Her parents then took her to the Christu Raj Hospital, which was also a church-run institution. The minor was told that she was to undergo a procedure for appendicitis.
POCSO Court acquits the alleged accomplices to the priest
According to the report, the church had used many of its institutions to cover up the crime. Dr Nelliyani Thankamma had assisted in the delivery, Dr Tessy was the gynaecologist, Dr Hyderali was the paediatrician and Ancy Matthew, the hospital administrator were those accused by the POCSO court for aiding and covering up the crime. Along with them, Dr Liz Maria and Sister Anita of the Christu Dasi convent and Sister Ophelia from the Holy infant Mary orphanage in Wayanad were also accused.
However, they were all acquitted by the court in the most recent hearing. The TNM report states that Dr Tessy and Dr Nelliyani Thankamma helped deliver the baby. Dr Hyderali discharged the baby. Dr Nellayani, Dr Liz Maria and Sister Anita then took the baby to the Holy infant Mary orphanage. The news broke out when Kannur Childline received an anonymous letter about the incident.
Church blames the minor victim for participating in 'sin'
During the time when the incident was in the news, Sunday Shalom, the church magazine had printed an editorial which was siding with the accused and blamed the victim for participating in the 'sinful act'.
The article read, "Here the partner in the sin is more than 15 years old. Considering her in my daughter's position I am saying, daughter, you too went wrong. You will be the first one answerable before God. Why did you forget who a priest was? Why didn't you know that the sanctity of a priest is equal to the holiness of Jesus's heart? He has a human body, he can get temptations. If he might have forgotten that for a few seconds, my child who has taken the Holy Communion, why didn't you stop or correct him?"
This verdict comes in the wake of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese raping a nun for two years between 2014 and 2016. The church was called out for protecting the Bishop and also for taking actions against the nuns who protested against the incident.