Sacred prostitution

Posted: January 7, 2009 in social issues
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Sacred prostitution

Despite the Devadasi system being declared illegal in Karnataka in 1982, the practice is still rampant in about 10 districts of the state.
Only one case pertaining to the illegal Devadasi system has been disposed of in Karnataka in the past 19 years. There are 44 cases pending in courts. Fear of influential people in villages often makes witnesses turn hostile in the courts. This is why very few cases will be disposed of.
Of the 45 cases registered, only one from Shivpura village in Belgaum district has been tried. Three people were convicted; one person was given a two-year jail term and fined Rs 2,000 and the other two got one-year terms and were fined Rs 1,000 each.
There is a need for amendment in the Prohibition of Devadasi Act to ensure severe and strict punishment for offenders. Rather, it should be made a non-bailable offence.
Many Devadasis across the country are trapped in prostitution. Young girls are forced into prostitution in the name of religion. They are dedicated to gods. The system is nothing but a sacred prostitution. After the girls are dedicated, the priests of temples claim their rights on them first and later everyone else. They are courtesans in god’s court. A Devadasi cannot belong to any one particular husband, but she is a common and public property belonging to anyone and everyone.
Poverty-stricken parents unable to pay their future dowries and hopeful that a pleased goddess will give them a boy in the next pregnancy, marry their daughter to a deity or a temple even before the girl reaches puberty. The girl is supposed to become a prostitute for upper-caste men.
Forbidden to marry or work outside the temple, Devadasis spend their lives tending shrines and decorating altars, singing and dancing, narrating devotional stories and collecting coins from worshippers to support themselves and their religious work.
The government should provide alternative jobs so that these women can come out of this proscribed system. There is a need for counselling and medical care besides assuring them that they would be safe after renouncing ‘sacred temple jobs’.
Join hands to abolish the system and make these women to lead a respectful life in the society.

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