Centre asks states to stop Devadasi system

Describing the Devadasi system as one of the most heinous practices against women, the Centre has asked states to invoke stringent penal provisions and conduct special drives to prevent such practices under any guise.

In a letter to states, the Union Home Ministry said the Devadasi system still exists in certain parts of the country, especially in Bberiya and Nnat communities, citing religious reasons though it was abolished long back. Devadasi system was abolished in the country in 1988.

“Such practice is absolutely inhuman and against the dignity of women and therefore Devadasi system needs to be completely abolished both in letter and spirit,” the letter said as it cited the laws passed by Karnataka (Devadasis Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1992) and Maharashtra (Devadasis Abolition Act, 2006).

The now-banned Devadasi system is a religious practice in some parts of India where parents marry off a daughter to a deity or a temple. The marriage usually occurs before the girl reaches puberty. Devadasis are often subjected to sexual exploitation. The practice of Devadasi system in any form is in total contravention of the provisions of Section 370 and 370A as amended through Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 as well as Section 372 of Indian Penal Code. It is also against Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, the letter said. These provisions have been strengthened with enhanced punishment.

The states are “expected to ensure the implementation of existing law strictly to prevent such practices under any guise. Any and all such instances and cases should be dealt with strictly and without exception as per extant law”, the ministry said.

According to the letter, states are supposed to initiate special drive to identify all such victims and suitably rehabilitate them by providing proper counselling, medical treatment, guidance, support and motivation to lead a dignified life.

The government could seek the help of NGOs working in this field. “Special sensitisation and skill development programmes should be organised for such victims so that they can take up income generation activities to lead a dignified life,” the letter said.

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