A historic rape case has again drawn attention to the judicial committees of Jehovah’s Witnesses which in turn has prompted Finland’s Minister Päivi Räsänen to look further into the matter.
A woman named Kirsi-Maria Aho, has spoken about her treatment by Jehovah’s Witnesses and the loss of her family after she was raped and sexually abused.
“It was really cruel. A young girl under fire in front of three men,” she says. “The Committee emphasized that I had done wrong and that I was wicked and adulterous. No one defended me.”
As punishment, Aho was separated from the community. At the same time she was isolated from her family.
“I thought for 22 years that I was bad,” says Aho. “Since I was separated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses I’ve thought that. Art therapy studies have brought me self-respect and understanding. I’ve realized that I’m not the bad one.”
The Victims of Religion Support Association has documented 28 similar experiences by Jehovah’s Witness’ judicial committees. The Aho case is one of them.
This week the association gave the Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen a list of suggestions on how society should address the issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses judicial committees. Räsänen is Finland’s parliamentary member responsible for matters relating to religious communities.
Aho also gave Minister Räsänen a very powerful painting that she had created.
She said in explaining the meaning of the painting to the Minister:
“This work of art has a lot of symbolism. I have described disfellowshipping as a sad donkey. Losing dignity, the disfellowshipped person may feel that life no longer has any meaning.
For vulnerable people, disfellowshipping may lead to suicidal tendencies and mental health problems.”
“I portrayed the judicial committee on the basis of my own experience of when I was disfellowshipped as a result of sexual abuse. In the background of the picture is Armageddon, which we all have propably lived in fear of since childhood.
The monkeys reflect the powers that elders use when disfellowshipping their members.”
The association proposes, among other things, that religious courts (judicial committees) should be prohibited by law. Minister Räsänen has passed the report on to the Ministry of Justice for clarification.
“In any case, we should not accept parallel legal systems in which crimes are investigated and sanctions considered,” says Räsänen. “Now, of course, it should be figured out where these judicial committees stand in light of our legislation.”
This is not the first time that Minister Räsänen has turned her attention to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Earlier this year, leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Finland were interviewed by Minister Räsänen and Justice Minister Anna-Maija Henriksson about the nature of Judicial Committees. They were required to release the secret elder manual “Shepherding the Flock of God” to the Ministries.
Minister Henriksson said at the time “Of course it cannot be in Finland that we have another system outside the regular judiciary.”
YLE News report on Youtube with English subtitles[youtube width=”550″ height=”344″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNoSLBDatzc[/youtube]
Yle.fi UUtiset Link
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