The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in its biannual meeting in Pune in 1992,
the bishops of the country deliberated on various issues concerning women thereby
arriving at ways of addressing them. In their concluding statement the bishops said:
“Discrimination against women seems to be embedded in the structure of our society….
Violence against women sometimes starts from the very moment of conception of the
girl child and is experienced by them at all the stages of their life. Violence
that is physical, sexual and psychological and practiced against women is the result
of inhuman and unchristian attitudes. With a sense of sorrow we must admit that
women feel discriminated even in the church.”
A Desk for Women, under the CBCI Commission for Laity was etablished. Sr. Cleopatra,
the President of the Conference of Religious of India (Women’s Section) was appointed
as the first Secretary to represent the concerns of all women of the church in India.
The Desk was meant to serve as a catalyst for promoting and supporting all initiatives/women’s
associations that aim at empowerment of women. Sr. Cleopatra began her work in Delhi
at the CBCI Centre on 1 June 1992.
The statement was followed by a call for a plan of action in each Region that would
foster respect, human dignity irrespective of sex, promote the rights of women in
the home, in the Church and in society, and ensure adequate representation of women
in decision-making bodies of the Church. Priests and religious were exhorted to
stress this equality in their own attitudes and practice, in their homilies, in
their visits to families and in their respectful collaboration with women religious
in the mission of the Church. At the CBCI meeting of February 1996, the Women’s
Desk was granted the status of a Commission of the CBCI.