New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo moto notice of a media report on the ongoing threat of the Devadasi system in various temples, particularly in southern India.
The Commission has issued notices to the Secretaries of the Union Ministries of Women and Child Development and Social Justice and Empowerment, as well as the Chief Secretaries of the governments of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharashtra, requesting a detailed report on the matter as soon as possible but no later than six weeks.
The report must include supporting data describing the steps taken or proposed to be taken by the authorities to prevent the Devadasi system and to provide rehabilitation and social security to Devadasis so that they can live with dignity. It should also state whether any state laws have been enacted to prevent such social evil, and if not, what steps have been proposed to eradicate it.
According to reports, the governments of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh declared this Devadasi tradition illegal in 1982 and 1988, respectively. However, over 70,000 women are said to be living as Devadasi in Karnataka alone.
According to reports, there are 80,000 Devadasis in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, according to a commission chaired by Justice Raghunath Rao.
Various laws have also been enacted in the past to prevent Devadasi system malpractice, but it persists, as the news report indicates, according to the NHRC.
The Commission stated in its notice that it received a complaint about Devadasi malpractice in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh a few years ago. The state authorities had denied the allegations in response to the notice.
It has been described as an evil perpetrated on women by subjecting them to sexual exploitation and prostitution. According to the commission, this is a serious violation of the victim women’s right to life, dignity, and equality.
The Supreme Court has also taken a firm stance against the practice of dedicating young girls as Devadasis.