In Africa priests abusing women religious is a “reality”

women religious

Women religious in Africa suffer at the hands of some priests.

Abuse and sexuality are taboo topics in Africa and women religious were reluctant to speak about their experiences, even in a safe environment with one of their own.

Women religious and priests

Sister Mary Lembo from Togo says she had to work for several years to convince religious women from Africa to talk to her about abuse priests inflicted upon them.

She eventually conducted interviews with nine affected women from five sub-Saharan African countries for a study she was undertaking.

For her own protection she did not name the countries where she worked.

Her subsequent dissertation “Sexual Abuse of Women Religious in Africa” was recently published in German.

“Abuse is a reality” Lembo says.

She explains that women religious are in close contact with priests.

They trust them and seek advice and help, which can lead to “asymmetrical relationships”.

There is a certain naivety, Lembo said, adding that women in religious orders sometimes have the idea that a priest cannot hurt them.

Social taboo

Sexuality is still a social taboo in Africa.

Lembo says that is why to date the Church has hardly addressed the sex abuse problem in Africa.

She says she has also found nuns show little understanding of their abused sisters.

The abused women religious told her they were afraid and did not want to damage the Church’s image.

To better protect women religious in future, Lembo wants the Church to introduce training programmes and preventative measures.

The Catholic aid organisation Missio, based in Aachen, Germany, is organising projects of this sort in African and Asian countries.

At Lembo’s book launch, Missio President Dirk Bingener said abuse of women religious is systemic.

The case studies she highlighted are not isolated incidents, he said.


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News category: World.

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