Indian police hunt nuns accused of aiding rapist priest

Five nuns and a doctor are on the run in India after being accused of concealing the birth of a baby to a teenager who alleges that a priest raped her, police said Sunday.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the six and for two hospital staff. They are accused of conccealing the 16-year-old's delivery from authorities and hiding the baby in a Catholic orphanage at Kunnur in the southern state of Kerala.

"They deliberately hid the incident from officials," Prajish Thottathil, a senior police officer, told AFP, adding some of the accused likely also knew about the alleged assault.

Three of the accused work at a private hospital while the rest were associated with the orphanage where the baby was left.

The accused priest Robin Vadakkumchery was arrested last week after the victim gave birth in February, prompting an investigation.

Under Indian law doctors and hospitals must report all teenage pregnancies and deliveries to authorities.

Sex – consensual or otherwise – with a person aged under 18 is considered rape in India.

The victim told investigators the accused priest raped her at a church-run school last year.

She and her family said they were unaware of the pregnancy until she complained of stomach pain and was taken to hospital, where she gave birth.

A child rights organisation tipped off police about the secret delivery, triggering an investigation that revealed the alleged involvement of the priest.

Churches in Kerala have faced accusations of sexual abuse in the past.

Two autobiographies by former Catholic nuns have in recent years revealed the scale of sexual exploitation by priests and the prevalence of same-sex relations in convents.

Last year a priest was sentenced to 40 years in prison by a Kerala court for raping a 12-year-old girl in 2014.

Nearly one-fifth of the coastal state's 34 million people follow Christianity.

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