The Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has approved an updated version of ISKCON’s “Child Protection Policy and Operational Guidelines.” The Guidelines set standards for child protection within ISKCON, mandate how the ISKCON’s Central Office of Child Protection (CPO) and local Child Protection Teams should function, while clarifying how ISKCON leaders and members should respond to any allegations of abuse.
The Child Protection Guidelines open with a two-page statement declaring the “paramount” importance of child protection within ISKCON:
“The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is committed to the well being of all individuals involved with ISKCON, especially children and other more vulnerable participants.”
“ISKCON recognizes that children, for their full and harmonious development, need to be raised in an atmosphere of love, support, guidance and understanding. ISKCON acknowledges that children, when so raised, are likely to play a vital role in the future of our Society. Thus, placing the interests of the children first is not only in the best interest of the children themselves, but also of ISKCON, and society at large…”
ISKCON’s Child Protection Office was established by the Governing Body Commission (GBC) in 1998 and has been functioning since that time. It was based in Alachua, Florida for more than a decade and recently relocated to South Africa. The first review and update of the CPO procedures was completed and approved by the GBC in 2005. The new Guidelines were passed by a correspondence vote of the GBC this month.
The 2012 Guidelines document is twenty-four pages, plus nine pages of appendixes. The GBC Resolution approving the new Guidelines highlighted the need to expand and clarify “the processes involved in dealing with a complaint” of child neglect or abuse, “the duties of the various role-players” in the child protection process,” “the categories of abuse, offenders and the manner in dealing with them,” and “the scope of jurisdiction of the Child Protection Office.”
“The GBC mandated that the CPO be reviewed and its child protection policies be updated about every five years,” said Tamohara dasa, former CPO Director and GBC co-sponsor of the new Policy. “When it created the CPO, the GBC wanted to ensure the CPO will be reviewed, updated and improved on a regular basis.”
“In addition to procedural changes and updates, the document makes it explicitly clear that child protection is the responsibility of every member of ISKCON, “said Champakalata dasi, ISKCON’s South African based CPO Director. “This has always been our understanding, as well as the need of our children, but we are stressing it more in the new Guidelines,” she said.
Anuttama dasa, second co-sponsor of the new Guidelines, added, “The CPO and local ISKCON Child Protection Teams serve in conjunction with government child protection laws and social welfare agencies. So it’s the duty of parents, leaders and educators to be aware of local laws and government systems. Child protection is a cooperative effort,” he said.
The Guidelines are effective immediately. They may be found in their entirety on the GBC website at http://gbc.iskcon.org/papers-and-manuals/
By Anuradha dasi for ISKCON News