While “Metoo” campaign by the Indian film industry starlets is going strong, we often forget more terrible exploitation of women in India. In fact these lesser mortals have no say whatsoever. I am referring to Devadasis or Jogini in other words girls wedded to God.
There are over 90000 such women in Southern India ( Aandhra and Telangana) and some population in North East India. Young girls belonging to poor backward class families between the age of 5-10 are offered to the temples and in a ceremony wedded to God. They are then looked after and nurtured in the temples. They are made to learn singing and dancing along with temple routine prayer duties. So far so good but as they reach the age of Puberty they are offered to influential people of the area like high priests, landlords, rich merchants who sexually exploit them till these girls start getting into middle age. Thereafter any common person of the village like a high caste farmer can use them in whatever way they feel like. Parents of these girls are very poor and backward and they get rewarded financially if their daughters become Jogini or Devadasis. This tradition is prevalent since last many centuries. Though such a practice has been abolished by law now but the tradition still carries on.
Worst sufferers are their children who have no idea of their father. A male child cannot attend school because of poverty and also due to lack of knowledge of his father’s name which is mandatory for school documentation. Female children of Devadasis end up becoming Devadasis themselves. Such is the exploitation of these women. Thus ‘ Wedded to God’ turns out to be a traditional Prostitution racket accepted by the upper class of society. Many of such women contract diseases such as STD, AIDS and die a miserable death.
While NGOs and many other organisations are fighting on behalf of Bollywood actresses who have been exploited by the Industry high ups ( though they may be silently willing in exchange for film roles then, but having reached some level of success are recounting sexual exploitation cases 10-20 years ago), none is coming forward to take up the case of Devdassis.
In the era of women empowerment, it is shocking to know that such things still exist. May be someone takes up the case of these Lesser Mortals and redeem these poor souls!
Image . Courtesy, National Mueseum Liverpool.