Devadasi (Devdasi) System - Taboo of the Moden India

Devadasi Systems - Background Context

  • From the recent studies, it has been found that the “Devadasi System” is still practiced to this day not just in the State of Karnataka, but across neighboring states such as GOA.
  • The “DEVADASI SYSTEM” tradition of the medieval period, dedicating or offering girls to the temples at a young age, with the hope to receive blessings from Gods.
  • It was heavily condemned and abolished during Indian independence by many leaders and reformers, yet this social taboo managed to survive to date and is a big dent in Indian society.
  • The “Karnataka Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act” was enacted in the year 1982. It is more than thirty-six years since the law has been constituted, and the state Government of Karnataka has not formulated the protocols for administering the law.
Photo by Hans Vivek / Unsplash

Definition of Devadasi System

The religious taboo/practice whereby parents push their daughter, to marry a deity or the community temple. This marriage often happens, before these victimized girls reach or are about to reach puberty. Seeing this as an opportunity, many groups of mafia and bad elements of the society, pushed these young girls into commercial prostitution, having no voice to speak for these girls or negligence of the society because it is a social taboo, they remain in those situations for many years or decades before embracing the death.

Indian woman in a pink dress
Photo by elCarito / Unsplash

Even though various state Government has a provision in the constitution to stop such practices, the practice of the Devadasi System still remains entrenched in various parts of the Indian society.

Brief Highlights of the Study

Vulnerable Population

The current Indian society in some sense is cunning and has more number people (masses) who believe in superstition. Special needs children with certain disabilities (physical/mental) are very vulnerable to this practice, especially girls. The primary reason is that the parents are not capable to take care of such children due to financial insecurities, social taboos,s or other seasons. Secondly, children are easy to target and the lack of speech for such children makes them vulnerable to Devadasi System.

Photo by Loren Joseph / Unsplash

The story goes on to take an ugly turn, these children are found to be victims of commercial sex rackets, illegal organ trading, child labor, and bonded labor practice. Despite the sanctions from communities and NGO activists, the Devadasi Systems unfortunately is still alive.

Reporting of Cases against Devadasi Practice

The cases reported concerning the custom in the state of Karnataka are very low. There are only four cases reported during the period 2011 to 2017. The law is on the shelves of the constitution and rarely used, ironically it concentrates on the prosecution of the victim and has no solid groundwork for rehabilitation of those affected.

Loopholes in Law (There is always one)

However even though victims provide loads of proof of exploitation, these cases are often linked to t sexual exploitation. Recent legislation such as POCSO Act 2012, and JJ Act 2015 haven’t made any references or taken into account, the form of sexual

Despite sufficient evidence of the prevalence of the practice and its link to sexual exploitation, recent legislation such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, and Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act of 2015 have not made any reference to it as a form of sexual oppression of victimized children.

Unethical Trafficking Prevention Law

Very recently India proposed the Unethical Trafficking Prevention Law and Put forward the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018, which did not recognize these dedicated girls (Devadasis) as sufferers of trafficking for sexual exploitation. The State’s incompetence and negligence towards the weaker sections of society fuel the continuation of the Devadasi Systems practice.

Need of the Hour

  1. To enhance the livelihood of the weaker sections of the Indian society.
  2. Creating the environment for sustainability and inclusive social and economic development.
  3. Overhauling of the Legislative and devising a mechanism for the proactive approach of State Govt.