Lust in the Name of God

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Devadasi system is not only exploitation of women, it is the institutionalized exploitation of women; it is the exploitation of Dalits, the lower class of untouchables; it is the religious sanction given to prostitution of helpless economically and socially deprived women; It is the glorification of humiliation of women. Inherent in this system is the fascistic belief that a certain section of human population, the lower caste, is meant to serve the ‘higher caste’s superior men’. Inherent in it is the feudal-lord-temple-priest-nexus, where the priest, already having a psychological hold over the minds of simple people to the point of dictating their way of life, uses his power to give ‘religious sanction’ to the practice by declaring it ‘sacred’, and thus cajole and lure simple minded villagers into this worst form of prostitution. After centuries of traditionally imposed prostitution, young girls in Wadia village near Palanpur for the first time are getting ready for a mass marriage. Wadia is known for being the village of prostitutes in Gujarat, where young girls are trained to provide sexual services as soon as they attain puberty. The sex workers mostly belong to the Sarania community, mainly from Rajasthan and Saurashtra. The mass marriage of 15 girls is scheduled on March 11. Invitations have been sent out and 1,500-odd baraatis are expected to come. The excitement is palpable in the village. After years of forced exploitation, this act of marital alliance will ensure a stable monogamous relationship for these girls and will change the course of this small village’s history. For the first time, the girls will not be forced into the flesh trade. Vicharti Jaati Samuday Samarthan Manch, a local NGO convinced boys from the community to marry the girls by building trust among them. Seven girls above 18 years of age and eight girls who are younger will take part in the mass marriage. This is commendable since most families are reluctant to get a girl from Wadia as daughters-in-law as real identity of their fathers is not known. Wadia has a population of 750 people of which 100-odd women are believed to be involved in prostitution since pre-Independence days. The men of the families often live off their women’s income, pimping clients. The fate of girls in the village of Wadia might be on a road to transformation, but what about the countless number of women in India who are still engaged in forced temple prostitution under the garb of traditional customs like the Devadasi system? The caste system is in Hindu religion has many manifestations. It has not only divided the society in to various layers of graded hierarchy but has also created inhuman practices in the name of God. One of it is Devadasi system prevalent in different forms all over India. This cult is prevalent even today throughout India with some regional variances. Young girl are dedicated to or married not to a mortal-man but to an idol, deity or object of worship or to a temple. The barbarism of the tradition reflects in the very rituals it involves. The initiation ritual was said to include a ‘deflowering ceremony’, known as Uditambuvadu in some parts, whereby the priests would have intercourse with every girl enrolled at his temple as part of his religious ‘duty’. So much that a Marathi saying states “Devadasi devachi bayako, sarya gavachi”, meaning servant of god, but wife of the whole town. The Devadasis girls are from the lowest caste whose parents have given them to local goddesses or temples as human ‘offerings’. She has to remain unmarried, and maintain herself by ceremonial begging to meet the ends. There are various myths around this inhuman practice. This system is based on the traditional belief in Andhra Pradesh that evil over the family or the village can be avoided by dedicating a girl in the family to the temple deity. As soon as she reaches puberty, she becomes the exclusive concubine of the feudal gentry in the village. In Maharashtra, the...
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