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Pope Francis approves tribunal to probe bishops over sexual abuse

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Vatican City: Pope Francis on Wednesday approved a proposal to create a tribunal within the Vatican for bishops who cover up alleged paedophile priests, as part of his reform of the city-state’s Curia or governing body.

The new tribunal will be part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, which already has the power to judge priests accused of abusing minors.

The remit of the newly-formed body will cover bishops, judging them “with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors,” the Vatican said.

The tribunal was recommended by a 17-member commission set up by Francis to crack down on sexually abusive clergy, more than a decade after the scandal first emerged in the US, sullying the image of the Catholic Church.

Francis also approved “adequate resources” so bishops can report priests who abuse children and the disabled for abuse of office, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

Three different bodies would be authorized to make such reports, the Congregation of bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Sex abuse victims said they feared the move was just the latest in a series of administrative reforms undertaken by the Vatican to stonewall secular authorities, leading to very few prosecutions.

Despite his virtually unlimited power, Francis is yet to sack any bishops for complicity in child sex abuse, nor has he demoted, disciplined or denounced any complicit church official, according to victims. (IANS)

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One out of Two Children face Child Sexual Abuse: The Growing Problem of Child Sexual Abuse in India

A recent survey by World Vision India reveals that 50% children have faced sexual abuse in India

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  • One out of two children in India face child sexual abuse.
  • The perpetrators of sexual abuse among children are often close to them and trusted by the family.
  • The children from economically backward families are often trafficked and abused.
  • Information, awareness and communication are important tools for handling sexual abuse among children.

Child sexual abuse and child trafficking are rapidly festering problems in India, as a recent survey by World Vision India reveals that out of 45,844 children interviewed, almost half of them have been subjected to sexual abuse. The alarming statistics which indicate the unsafe circumstances faced by children also pose a glaring question: how do we know when a child has been abused?

Child sexual abuse is one of the least addressed issues in India, because of the taboo and the social stigma associated with it. Most children who have been abused refuse to disclose their discomfort out of shame and fear of punishment, as in most cases, the perpetrators of the child sexual abuse are persons who are explicitly trusted by the family. According to a survey conducted by the Government of India in 2007, the sexual abuse of children occurs mostly between the ages of 5 and 12, when they are unable to articulate their pain, as they lack the basic training to discriminate between affection and abuse.

Children engaged in labour are often trafickked and sexually abused.
Stock images, Wikipedia

Child trafficking in India

The problem of child sexual abuse in India among children is further intensified by the issue of child trafficking, as many economically backward families with multiple children often engage their children in labour, in an effort to earn their daily subsistence. The children employed in illegal labour are often trafficked away from their homes and even outside the country, where they become victims of child sexual abuse. The education system in India, which is often inaccessible to the children of the underdeveloped sections of the society, also become victims of child trafficking, as they lack the awareness and the information which might protect them from child sexual abuse.

Children engaged in labour are often trafickked and sexually abused
Stock image, Wikipedia

How to combat child sexual abuse

The main weapons in the battle against sexual abuse among children are communication and awareness. Once children learn to identify potential sexual predators, necessary steps may be adopted to ensure their safety and security. The development of a ‘safe space’ for children, where they may confide in adults without the fear of judgement or persecution might encourage them to disclose their concerns, which might help in the identification of potential threats which may hamper their well being.

“Despite one in every two children being a victim of child sexual abuse, there continues to be a huge silence. The magnitude of sexual violence against children is unknown,” states Cherian Thomas, the Director of World Vision India, claiming that one out of four families do not lodge complaints regarding cases of child sexual abuse. The unwillingness to engage in conversations regarding the growing menace of sexual abuse and trafficking among children also pose a major problem while combating with issues that threaten the safety of children. “I feel it is time that we all come under one banner and umbrella to focus our work around child protection,” said Cherian, encouraging parent-child conversation regarding sexual violence, as a measure to combat the prevalence of such crimes.

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Sexual abuse is everywhere in the world, says Radhika

The actress believes that one should know how to say 'No'

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Radhika Apte's view on sexual abuse
Bollywood actress Radhika Apte says that sexual abuse is not only in B-town but in every part of the society. Wikimedia Commons

– Durga Chakravarty

Actress Radhika Apte feels that sexual abuse does not only exist in the world of showbiz but takes place in every alternate household.

“Sexual abuse takes place in every alternate household. So it’s not a part of just the film industry. You have so much child abuse, domestic abuse everywhere in the world, including India,” Radhika told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

She says it exists in “every field and household at some level or the other and that it all needs to be eliminated”.

Sexual abuse does not target just women, stresses Radhika.

“It’s also towards men, little boys and everybody. People exploit their power at every level.”

Radhika asserted that this needed to change.

“I think it starts from us putting our foot down and saying ‘no’ to things, however big your ambition is. You need to be brave about it, believe in your own talent, say ‘no’ and start speaking up because if one person speaks up, nobody is going to listen to him or her. But if 10 people do, then others would (listen to them),” she said.

The “Phobia” actress, who will be seen mentoring budding filmmakers in MTV’s upcoming digital show “Fame-istan”, says there has to be a more organised platform for people to work.

“There has to be more professional platforms as well as rules in place which is slowly happening.”

Sexual abuse has been a topic of debate in Bollywood and Hollywood. Prominent names from the entertainment industry are discussing how men in power take advantage of women in exchange for taking forward their dreams.

The sexual harassment saga started when a media house published a story in October revealing numerous accusations of sexual abuse against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

But why are no names taken in the case of casting couch in Bollywood?

“Because of fear, because people who have great ambitions are afraid. They think of what will happen to them if they take somebody’s name who has so much power. That’s what I am saying. Everybody has to speak up,” she added.

Radhika ventured into Bollywood in 2005 with “Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi!” and since then has explored genres like thriller, drama and adult comedy with films like “Rakht Charitra”, “Shor in the City”, “Badlapur”, “Parched” and “Hunterrr”.

Was it a conscious decision to act less in commercial entertainers?

Radhika said: “Nothing like that. You have to choose from the work that you have. You can’t say that ‘I want that’ if that’s not been offered to you. So, whatever is offered to you, you choose from that. You make your choice whatever you feel is going to be more challenging or something that inspires you or excites you.”

She says she makes her choices in the “spur of the moment” with whatever she feels intuitively. “I am not a very big planner.” (IANS)

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Goodbye Holy Smoke, Vatican City bans Sale of Cigarettes

The Vatican, a tiny walled city-state surrounded by Rome, is one of the few states to ban smoking.

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sale of cigarettes
The faithful gather in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. VOA

Vatican City, November 10, 2017 : Pope Francis has ordered a ban on the sale of cigarettes inside the Vatican from next year because of health concerns, a spokesman said on Thursday.

“The motive is very simple: the Holy See cannot be cooperating with a practice that is clearly harming the health of people,” spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement.

He cited World World Health Organization (WHO) statistics that smoking causes more than seven million deaths worldwide every year.

Cigarettes have been sold at a discounted price to Vatican employees and pensioners.

Vatican employees are allowed to buy five cartons of cigarettes a month. Many Italians ask their non-smoking friends who work in the Vatican to buy cigarettes for them because they cost much less than in Italy, where they are subject to heavy taxes.

Burke acknowledged that the sale of cigarettes has been a source of revenue for the Holy See, adding, “However, no profit can be legitimate if it is costing people their lives.”

The spokesman said the sale of large cigars would continue at least for the time being because the smoke is not inhaled.

The Vatican, a tiny walled city-state surrounded by Rome, is one of the few states to ban smoking. Bhutan, where smoking is deemed bad for one’s karma, banned the sale of tobacco in 2005. (VOA)