Accepted paper:

The Devdasi practice: violation of human rights of Dalit girls


Jyoti Shetty (Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute)

Paper short abstract:

The ancient Devdasi practice which offers/marries girls to a deity of worship in Hindu temples leading to forced prostitution is a gross violation of human rights. Despite laws for its prevention, this practice still continues. The present study will focus on different aspects of this tradition.

Paper long abstract:

The 'devdasi' system has been the object of several studies and is quite controversial. Past authors associated 'devdasi' with power and prestige, others, more lately, with degradation and prostitution. Traditionally, in addition to their religious duties, the devdasis were a community of artists. They sang and danced in temples to please the gods, a task which was highly regarded. ( Amrit Srinivasan, 1985, Gathia, 1999). The efficacy of the devdasi as a woman and dancer began to converge with the efficacy of the temple as a living center of religious and social life - political, commercial and cultural. (Singh 1997, O'Neil, 2004). Realizing the disadvantages of Devdasi practice, the Government of Maharashtra passed the Bombay Devdasis Prevention act, 1954, Maharashtra Devdasi System.(Abolition) Act. 2005. However, the practice lives on in the states mainly in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. Districts bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka are known as the "Devdasi belt" According to National commission on women of India, around 2,50,000 Dalit girls are dedicated as Devdasis to Yellamma and Khondaba temples in Maharashtra-karnataka border, a gross miscarriage of justice and violation of human rights of all these girls, dedicated as sexual slaves in the name of religion. This article explores the 'devdasi' practice, its evolution over time, analyses the social-economic conditions and various issues of the present 'devadasis', by preparing 20 full profiles of the Devdasi women from Pune and Sholapur district and ends with some suggestions for their improvement.

panel P098
Human rights and development: challenges and opportunities (Commission on Human Rights)