CCTV cameras inside Mumbai church divide parishioners

13-09-2017
UCAN

While two women filed a police complaint against the church authorities, accusing the priests of voyeurism and stalking, Catholic association has called it a campaign to defame priests, the Hindustan Times reported.

On Sept 9, groups supporting the priests walked to the Mahim police station to submit a memorandum supporting the priests. They said they will consult their lawyers to discuss legal action against those accusing the priests of crime.

The police have not yet registered a FIR, but have said that they are investigating the complaints and have spoken to the women who felt the cameras were obtrusive.

The church said that the cameras were put up after complaints of thefts in the washrooms, but a group called the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) said that the devices violate voyeurism and stalking laws.

“The cameras can film women in a private affair. Applying lipstick or combing hair in front of the washroom mirror is also a private affair,” said Joseph Sodder, a lawyer and member of AOCC.

Another AOCC member said that when women complained the priests agreed to remove the cameras, but have done nothing. 

It is not clear why the issue has become news now. Both groups agree that the cameras have been there for three years. 

The cameras in the women’s loo are in the common area near the entrance, and according to some women, do not infiltrate the toilet cubicles.

The priests have pointed out that there are similar cameras in the men’s toilets too. The presence of similar surveillance devices in the men’s toilet cannot justify the cameras in the women’s washrooms, said Sodder. 

The AOCC accused the other groups of trying to cover-up crimes by the clergy which the groups supporting the priests denied vehemently.

“The Catholic community wants to talk against the defamation of priests, spoiling the names of the priest by saying things that are totally untrue,” said Rita D’Sa of the Bombay Catholic Sabha. 

“For us it smacks of mischief because the matter never came up earlier. The images from the CCTV cameras are seen in a locked room, the priests are not watching the footage.”

D’Sa said that a majority of those who took part in Saturday’s protests were women and they agreed that the cameras were needed. “We have no idea why the complaints have been filed suddenly.”

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