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NCW to study actual status of 'devadasi' system

Ashish Tripathi, New Delhi, Jan 24, 2015, DHNS: 8:06 IST

Practice still prevalent in Karnataka, Maharashtra despite ban

Concerned over “Devadasi” system, the illegal practice of dedicating girls to temples prevalent in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has proposed in-depth studies to bring out measures to rescue and rehabilitate the victims.

The panel has also decided to conduct expert consultation and discuss the issue with the rights bodies like National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the law officer of the NCW submitted that it expected that such studies and consultation would enable it to prepare an updated report and suggest a viable option for these women. The commission will also engage and consult with its state counterparts, it said.

The response came on a PIL filed by S L Foundation, a Kerala-based NGO seeking the court’s intervention on urgent basis into a programme which was scheduled to be held on early hours of February 14, 2014 in Uttangi Mala Durga Temple at Harapanahalli taluk of Davanagere district, Karnataka, wherein dalit girls were to be made “devadasis”.

The apex court had then directed the Karnataka government to ensure that no such function took place while describing the age-old practice as a “national shame”. A “devadasi”, dedicated to temple services for rest of her life, is often put to sexual exploitation.

In an affidavit, the NCW said it is imperative that an action plan is devised to bring out facts on record and discuss the option with key stakeholders to prepare a viable plan. “The Commission is conscious of the issues involving ‘devadasis’ and has been concerned about the manner in which young persons are exploited in the name of tradition. The commission was one of the agencies to support studies on the subject.”

“To the best of my knowledge, there are neither any accurate accounts/studies on the actual status of the ‘devadasis’, nor any status report on the implementation of the Karnataka Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1982, exists even though the act itself is more than 30 years old,” an officer of the NCW said. There are no studies conducted officially in the last four years about status of devadasis, he added.

In its reply to the apex court’s notice, the Karnataka government had submitted that following court direction last year, it had deployed over 200 officers and installed CCTV cameras at strategic places to curb the ractice.

The petitioner had claimed that even though Karnataka and Maharashtra had passed separate legislations abolishing “Devadasi” system, the practice still continued at several places as per the NCW report which claimed that 2.5 lakh dalit girls were dedicated to temples in Karnataka-Maharashtra border.

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