Safe Environment

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Eparchy of Thuckalay



The procedural norms contained herein are based on the following legislative documents of the Catholic Church and the Government of India: 1) Various canonical legislations of the supreme authority of the Catholic Church, 2) Procedural norms for Dealing with Cases Involving Sexual Abuse of Minors of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (hereinafter called as CBCI) 3) Gender Policy of  Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (hereinafter called as KCBC) 4) Guidelines to Deal with Sexual Harassment at workplace (CBCI, 2017)  5) Guidelines for Safe Environment Programme - KCBC (hereafter Guidelines), 6) Protection of Children from the Sexual Offence Act 2012 (hereafter POCSO), 7) Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013, 8) Juvenile Justice Act 2010 (hereafter JJ Act).

Among these, JJ Act tries to consolidate and amend the law relating to children alleged and found to be in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection by catering to their basic needs through proper care, protection, development, treatment, social re-integration, by adopting a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children and for their rehabilitation through processes provided, and institutions and bodies established. The General principles provisioned for the care and protection of children in the JJ act appeals to its application in our institutions belonging to the Catholic Church and parishes. POCSO act, which protects children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and provides for the establishment of special courts for trial of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, demands us to ensure the healthy, physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of children. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act provides protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Taking inspiration from the above said civil Act of 2013 and having considered the seriousness of the situation and the importance of the other civil acts, CBCI published a guideline to deal with Sexual Harassment at Workplace in 2017. It has been formulated to create a safe, healthy and loving environment that enables its employees to work without the fear of prejudice, bias and sexual harassment and creates a mechanism for prevention, redressing of complaints and also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges. Also, CBCI, in its Procedural  norms for dealing with cases involving sexual abuse of minors – 2015 exhibits the mind to show zero tolerance towards sexual abuse of minors; to take necessary disciplinary action against offenders; to constitute an appropriate mechanism with necessary infrastructure and time bound procedures to deal with cases of sexual abuse; to respond with compassion and care to victims of sexual abuse; to make available to the victims professional care including therapy/counselling and to address the critical component of prevention.

Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference adopts the spirit of the above said civil acts and the corresponding norms and directives/guidelines from CBCI and the other relevant ecclesiastical laws, provides for maintaining an environment which is free of all forms of gender violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination on the basis of sex/gender in the Kerala Catholic Church.The Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, in conformity with the synodal decision of the Synod of bishops, promulgated the KCBC Guidelines for the entire Syro-Malabar Church and decreed it to be enforced in all Syro-Malabar eparchies and all related institutions with effect from 1st March, 2019.

Accordingly, the bishop of the Eparchy of Thuckalayas its superior authority has constituted a committee called Eparchial Safe Environment Committee with the Eparchial Safe Environment Director as its chairperson to prevent and handle Sexual or any other form of harassment at Workplace and for the protection of children and vulnerable adults from sexual and any other forms of offences committed by  Church Personnelnamely, clerics that is bishops, priests, deacons, lay workers and volunteers both paid and otherwise, religious both men and women and seminarians.  The following norms and procedureare given to that purpose.





Section I

 Title and Objectives

1. Title: These normsmay be called “Norms and Procedure of the Safe Environment Committee of the Eparchy of Thuckalay”.

1.1 These norms apply to all church personnel, parishes and institutions, as the case may be according to the definitions given in various documents quoted herein within the Eparchy of Thuckalay

2. The objectives of the Eparchial Safe Environment Committee are the following:

2.1To implement the policy given by Syro-Malabar Synod against harassment and abuse of any category committed against women, children and vulnerable adults.

2.2To remain as a permanent mechanism for the prevention and redressal of harassment cases and other acts of gender based violence.

2.3 To ensure the implementation of the policy through proper handling of the complaints and their follow-up procedures.

2.4To uphold the commitment of the Eparchy to provide an environment free of gender based discrimination where everyone can feel comfortable.

2.5To promote a social and psychological as well as spiritual environment to raise awareness on harassment in its various forms.

Section II


3. In these norms unless the context otherwise requires:

3.1 Safe Environment means an environment where a person is free from sexual and all sorts of harassment and feels comfortable.

3.2 Minor means a person who has not completed the age of 18 years. A person who habitually lacks the use of reason is included as minor.

3.3 Vulnerable Adult means any adult who is physically, mentally or emotionally impaired, whether temporarily or long term, or otherwise unable to function as a typical adult is expected to function.

3.4 Church Personnel means Clerics (bishops, priests, deacons), lay employees and volunteers both paid and unpaid (Kaikkars, Sacristians, Catechism teachers, parish council members, office bearers of pious associations, similar office bearers etc.), men and women members of religious congregations and equivalent entities, and candidates to priesthood and religious life as well as other similar states of life.

3.5 Sexual Harassment means and includes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal expression or physical conduct of a sexual nature which make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour, whether directly or by implication.

3.5.1 Physical contact and advances;

3.5.2 Demand or request for sexual favours;

3.5.3 Making sexually coloured remarks or jokes or conversation;

3.5.4 Showing pornography;

3.5.5 Any other unwelcome physical conduct or verbal or non-verbal expressions of sexual nature;

3.5.6 Any act falling under the purview of the following cases will be considered as an incident of sexual harassment: submission to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and verbal expression or physical conduct of a sexual nature are, implicitly or explicitly, made a term or condition for teaching/guidance, employment, participation, or evaluation of a person's engagement in any activity. When unwelcome sexual advances, and verbal or non-verbal expressions and/or physical conduct such as loaded comments, remarks or jokes, letters, phone calls or e-mails, message through any social media platform, gestures, exhibition of pornography, lurid stares, physical contact, stalking, sounds or display of a derogatory nature is verified. When a person uses the body or any part of it or any object as an extension of the body with a sexual purpose in relation to another person without the latter's consent or against that person's will, such conduct will amount to sexual harassment. When deprecatory comments, conduct or any such behaviour is based on the gender identity/sexual orientation of the person and/or when the premises or any public forum of the institute is used to denigrate/discriminate against person(s), or when a hostile environment is created on the basis of a person’s gender identity/sexual orientation. When a person shows any humiliating treatment to another person that is likely to affect his/her health and safety. Teaching activities or explanation of various issues related to fertility, reproductive health and other research topics in a scientific manner as a part of training programmes approved and endorsed by legitimate authorities will not be considered as harassment.

3.6 Safe Environment Directoris the one who is responsible for implementing the Safe Environment programme in the Eparchy and ensuring adherence to its requirements. He is appointed by the bishop of the Eparchy of Thuckalay.

3.7 Safe Environment Committee means the committee appointed by the Eparchial Bishopof Thuckalay to assist the safe environment Director.

3.8 Complainant means a victim or if the victim is unable to make a complaint due to mental or physical incapacity or death, his/her legal heir or such other person as may be prescribed by law.

3.9 Respondent means the Church personnel against whom a complaint has been made.

3.10 Wherever ‘she/he’ is used in these procedures to indicate a person or persons, it includes also the persons not belonging to either of these genders.

3.11 ‘Day’ means a calendar day according to the Christian era excluding holidays, both religious and civil, whether full or partial.

Section III


4. These norms and procedures would apply to:

4.1 Clerics (bishop, priests, deacons) belonging to and residing in the Eparchy of Thuckalay

4.2 Men and women members of religious congregations and equivalent entities when they hold an office in the Eparchy and when they reside in the parishes or the church related institutions in the geographical boundary of the Eparchy of Thuckalay.

4.3 Candidates to priesthood and religious life as well as other similar entities.

4.4 Lay employees and volunteers, paid or unpaid, like kaikkars, sacristians, catechism teachers, parish council members, office bearers of pious associations whenever they act in the capacity of a church personnel.

4.5 Service providers and outsiders who may be within the jurisdictional area of the Eparchy of Thuckalay at the time of commission of the act coming under the purview of these norms.

5. The Safe Environment Director has the duty to ensure that the internal complaint committee/redressal committee is formed and maintained in every catholic institution in the Eparchy (Schools, Colleges, hospitals and care homes).







  1. Sexual misconduct by a priest/deacon/religious is contrary to Catholic moral teachings (ref. cann. 373, 374, CCEO). Sexual misconduct abuses the power and authority of the pastoral role committed to the priest and violates the rights and dignity of the persons affected by such misconduct. Sexual misconduct with a child (under the age of 18) or with a vulnerable adult inflicts special grave harm upon the victim and subjects the perpetrator to both criminal prosecution and civil liability. Sexual Abuse of a minor (under the age of 18) by clerics is a grave offence reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
  2. Sexual abuse by a priest, deacon or religious violates human dignity, clerical and religious commitment and the very mission of the Church. It diminishes and, at times, destroys the relationship of trust that is necessary for ministry.
  3. Hence the Eparchy of Thuckalay is bound to safeguard the sacredness of life, justice, ethic and integrity in ministry and is committed, as a policy of paramount importance, to make every possible effort to prevent the occurrence of heterosexual or homosexual misconduct, abuse or harassment of persons of any age or gender, by any of its members. The  Eparchy needs to deal promptly and effectively with any allegation of sexual misconduct, abuse of harassment, with compassion and care for both alleged victims and those against whom such allegations are made, offering assistance for their healing and reconciliation, and taking steps to prevent further occurrences of such behavior, in full compliance with the Law, both civil and canonical. The Eparchy recognizes that the interests of the alleged victim are of the utmost importance and hence will make every effort to do what is best for the victim, while offering the accused the appropriate support and assistance with due regard for his right of defense.
  4. All sexual misconduct is contrary to Christian principles and ministerial priesthood. The sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults is particularly reprehensible and constitutes a profound violation of trust, causing pain and injury to the abused, their families, the Presbyterium and the community of faithful. Sexual harassment too is not in keeping with the Gospel values. Homosexual practice is contrary to the law of the Church. Therefore the Eparchy unambiguously condemns all forms of sexual misconduct, particularly with minors and vulnerable adults, even when it is consensual, and commits to provide an environment where minors and vulnerable adults are safe, secure and protected from all forms of abuse. Any Priests/deacons/religious of the Eparchy proved guilty of sexual misconduct even consensually, or to have subjected any person to sexual harassment is to be brought under prompt and effective disciplinary action. The Eparchy will comply with the normal requirements of canonical and civil laws while at the same time providing for the spiritual and psychological wellbeing of the victims and the alleged offender.
  5. When the accused is a member of a religious institute, his/her superiors will be contacted and informed of the allegation. If the accused person is an Eparchial priest/deacon from another Eparchy, his Eparchial bishop will be contacted and informed of the allegation. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the Superior of the congregation/Bishop of that Eparchy to which the cleric/deacon/religious belongs to investigate the allegation in accordance with the policies of his/her own congregation/Eparchy. The Eparchy of Thuckalay shall proceed such cases only if the Superior of the congregation/Bishop of the accused person officially makes a request to the Bishop.
  6. The Eparchy recognizes that nothing humanly possible can fully compensate for the injury caused to a victim of a sexual misconduct, abuse and harassment, least of all any material or monetary recompense, which can indeed lead to a proliferation of allegations motivated by a desire for material gain and also give rise to accusations of attempts being made to buy silence.
  7. The Eparchy will accept no responsibility for a criminal act of the clerics and religious living and exercising apostolate here. Any punishment meted out, any compensation and/or damages awarded by a criminal court shall be the liability of the perpetrator of the offence. The Eparchy will not accept any civil liability in such matters. The liability will be that of the perpetrator alone.
  8. The Eparchy calls upon all its clerics/religious to reflect on their identity as men and women of God, who have freely chosen their vocation to the priesthood or religious life to be lived in the Eparchy of Thuckalay. We are judged not only by our intentions but also by our appearance. Therefore the Eparchy as a whole and each of its members individually needs to adhere to their spiritual, canonical, civil and legal obligations. Hence the procedures described in this Policy are a guide to assist the Eparchy in dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct by any member. The Eparchy intends to be in conformity with the requirements of the canonical and civil laws as well as the policy guidelines that are issued by Synod of Bishops / TNBC / CBCI and the Holy See. Accordingly the Eparchy may, from time to time, modify these policies/guidelines.


Binding Principles

Every cleric/religious of the Eparchy shall be bound by these principles, and shall, in his life and ministry, witness to God’s love for every human person.

  1. Treat all people with respect and courtesy and maintain sexual and professional boundaries bysensitivity, reverence and respect in relationships.
  2. Exercise prudent judgment in initiating or responding to any physical contact, always by keeping the wellbeing of the other person as the only goal.
  3. Respect the physical and emotional space of those he/she works with, ministers to, socializes with or relates to in any way.
  4. Exercise ministry only in places that offer sufficiently safe environment with openness and visibility.
  5. Exercise prudent judgment in the expression of and response to affection and tenderness and avoid all forms of over familiarity or inappropriate language.
  6. Ensure whenever reasonably possible that another adult is present or close by, when ministering to a minor or a vulnerable adult, always in a place visible to other, particularly when one is aware of one’s weakness.
  7. Become aware of the risks involved in entering into a personal relationship with those one ministries to, particularly a minor or a vulnerable adult, as also in ministering to those who are already one’s personal friends.
  8. Examine regularly himself/herself regarding his/her ministry and relationships, both individually and with the help of a spiritual director, and by reviewing how effectively he/she maintains the boundaries between his/her ministry and personal relationship.
  9. Establish relationships that are able to develop and mature within the context of the Gospel value and the pastoral ministry, characterized by openness, honesty and integrity.
  10. Give himself/herself wholeheartedly to a vibrant prayer life, nourished by the Word of God and the Sacraments, regular spiritual direction, and sacramental reconciliation.
  11. Seek professional help when he/she observes in himself/herself persistent and irresistible sexual attraction to or acting in a sexual manner with someone he mentors, teaches, directs, supervises works with or ministers to.
  12. Avoid any behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as sexual misconduct, abuse, harassment or irresponsibility, even with the consent of the other person.
  13. Avoid every kind of misuse of power, authority and influence to establish a sexual relationship.


Preventive measures

  1. Every cleric/religious is obliged to bring to the notice of the Hierarch any instance of sexual misconduct, abuse or harassment on the part of any cleric/religious of the Eparchy which has come to his/her knowledge, and no member of the presbyterium shall bring direct or indirect pressure on the Hierarch to ignore such allegations, be lenient or mitigate sanctions.
  2. The Hierarch shall take firm steps at the very first instance of sexual misconduct, abuse or harassment coming to his notice, without any leniency or compromise.
  3. Any touching of another should be appropriate, modest and devoid of any sexual overtone. This is to be particularly strict in the case of females, minors and vulnerable adults.
  4. All sexually stimulating and erotically satisfying physical touch, gestures and works, jokes, songs and stories, even when they look innocent and socially acceptable, are inappropriate, particularly when a female, minor and vulnerable adult is involved.
  5. If one-to-one ministering to a female, a minor or a vulnerable adult should be necessary, meeting in isolated environments and closed rooms with scant visibility should be avoided.
  6. All visitors are to be entertained in parlours and reception areas which are open, accessible and visible to all. The office, parlours and counseling rooms should be provided with doors and windows with transparent glasses.
  7. It is strongly recommended to keep CCTV cameras in offices, parishes and school premises and in the entrance of the presbytery.
  8. Females, minors or vulnerable adults are not to be provided accommodation in the presbytery unless they are very closely related to the priest concerned such as mother or sister.
  9. The priest should be careful not to cause public scandal by the presence of female cook or staff at day time in presbytery.
  10. All trips, tours, picnics, parties, camps, vacations, overnight trips or sports outside and other such activities must have the prior written approval of parents or guardians or appropriate institutions, and more than one adult must accompany the participants in such activities. Whenever girls and women are taken on such tours, at least one lady staff must accompany the group. Separate dormitories and sanitary rooms should be provided to males and females during these trips. When such tours are a compulsory requirement of the curriculum, a separate written consent shall be obtained from the parents or the guardians at the time of admissions, and these shall be carefully filed.
  11. Excessive communication through e-mail, telephone, SMS, Whatsapp and other means of social networks, which may lead to inordinate relationships are to be avoided.
  12. No inordinate friendships are to be established, either with men or with women.
  13. Topics, vocabulary, recordings, messages, films, games, jokes, stories or the use of the computer software, internet websites or any other form of interaction or entertainment that would normally cause embarrassment on account of their sexual overtone are not appropriate to be employed with females, minors and vulnerable adults. Sexually explicit or pornographic material is never appropriate.


Code of conduct for the Church personnel

  1. Church Personnel means Clerics (bishops, priests, deacons), lay employees and volunteers both paid and unpaid (Kaikkars, Sacristians, Catechism teachers, parish council members, office bearers of pious associations, similar office bearers etc.), teachers and staffs of the schools and colleges and any member associated with any institution of the Eparchy, men and women members of religious congregations and equivalent entities, and candidates to priesthood and religious life as well as other similar states of life.
  2. Treat children with respect regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
  3. Treat all children/students/vulnerable adults equally, and with respect and dignity.
  4. Promote an atmosphere of tolerance and respect and challenge extremist views that threaten this atmosphere.
  5. Refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol and of course taking any form of illegal drug, in quality of Church personnel.
  6. Maintain a safe and appropriate distance with children/students in your care.
  7. Never use language or behaviour towards children that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate.
  8. Never engage children under the age of 18 in any form of sexual intercourse or sexual activity, including paying for sexual services or acts.
  9. Wherever possible, ensure that another adult is present when working in the proximity of children.
  10. Never invite unaccompanied children into private room, unless they are at immediate risk of injury or in physical danger.
  11. Never sleep close to unsupervised children unless absolutely necessary, in which case one must obtain one’s supervisor’s permission, and ensure that another adult is present if possible.
  12. Ensure you work in pairs with the appropriate gender of staff doing the supervising if students have to be supervised in changing rooms.
  13. Use any computers, mobile phones, or video and digital cameras appropriately and never exploit or harass children or access child pornography through any medium.
  14. Refrain from physical punishment on children.
  15. Never hire children for domestic or other labour which is inappropriate given their age or developmental stage, which interferes with their time available for education and recreational activities, or which places them at significant risk of injury.
  16. Immediately report concerns or allegations of child exploitation and abuse and policy non-compliance in accordance with appropriate procedures.
  17. When photographing or filming a child for work-related purposes, one must, before photographing or filming a child, obtain consent from the child or a parent or guardian of the child. As part of this, one must explain how the photograph or film will be used.
  18. Any photography/filming must take place in an open, public area and never in isolation.
  19. The results of any photography/filming must be carefully stored, controlled and used only for the purpose for which they were intended.
  20. Avoid unnecessary physical contact with children/vulnerable adults. Try to ensure that others are present if physical contact is prolonged or sensitive - for example to comfort a crying child, if someone is injured etc.
  21. Use the procedure: demonstrate – ask permission – touch if you have to touch a child – for example to demonstrate a sporting technique.  However, it is always best to avoid touching at all and simply to demonstrate the technique.
  22. Avoid taking children alone in a car on journeys, however short.
  23. Keep a written record of any injury that occurs for the students, along with the details of any treatment given. This should be recorded in the incident books provided.
  24. Don’t betray a situation of trust.
  25. Don’t share changing rooms, washrooms, toilets or bedrooms with children. Always warn children before entering these places. Avoid being in these places with children unless absolutely necessary, and pay particular attention to avoid being alone with a child in these places.
  26. Don’t engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games or contact.
  27. Don’t engage in inappropriate language with children – writing, phoning, email or internet.
  28. Don’t hit, throttle, push, kick or otherwise act aggressively either physically or verbally towards a child even not pretend such acts.
  29. Don’t take a child to your home where they will be alone with you.
  30. Don’t allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching.
  31. Don’t make sexually suggestive comments or threats to a child, even in fun.
  32. Don’t do things of a personal nature for children or disabled adults that they can do for themselves.
  33. Don’t invite or allow children to spend time with you alone and unsupervised.
  34. Never initiate electronic contact with a child unless for clear pedagogical purposes that has been sanctioned by the Principal or Director of Studies.
  35. If a child contacts you electronically, keep your tone friendly, professional and neutral.
  36. For electronic contacts with children, fix a time period (for example: 09 am to 07 pm) that has been sanctioned by the Principal or Director of studies and communicated to the parents.
  37. Avoid situations that involve the exchange of personal information, personal photos, virtual gifts or the use of any application that suggests or encourages the sharing of personal feelings.
  38. If a child seeks to develop an inappropriate personal relationship with you electronically, do nothing to encourage this; inform the person in charge and send a copy of any relevant communications. Do not engage in electronic communication with a child/student.
  39. Always keep in mind that, other people may misinterpret your actions, no matter how well intentioned.





Section I

Constitution of the safe environment Committee

6. The Committee shall consist of minimum of six members, who shall be appointed by the bishop of the Eparchy. Of the six members, there shall be three women and three men.

6.1 The director shall always be a law graduate, preferably a woman with adequate knowledge in legal matters and its procedures, appointed by the Bishop for a period of three years. The director can be reappointed any number of times.