Discrimination: Denied education and, jobs Devadasi kids seek end to practice in Karnataka

Although the Devadasi practice is illegal, it’s still prevalent in different forms, they told the officials
Last Updated 28 January 2021, 21:49 IST

Father’s name. That one specification in an online application form turned a bane for Mahalakshmi, 23, an aspiring teacher.

Daughter of a Devadasi, Mahalakshmi’s application for a teachers’ recruitment exam was rejected four times as she was unable to name her father. “Finally, I had to enter my uncle’s name,” she said.

She and several other children of Devadasis continue to face social stigma, depriving them of education and jobs.

Seeking an end to the Devadasi practice, affected children from Belagavi, Bagalkot, Koppal, Vijayapura and Ballari met officials from the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) and Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) on Thursday under the ‘Children of India Foundation’ banner.

Although the Devadasi practice is illegal, it’s still prevalent in different forms, they told the officials. “The practice is widespread especially in North Karnataka. If parents are unable to find a groom, they force the daughter to become a Devadasi. In many cases, men resort to it only to prevent division of property,” explained Saroja from Ballari.

Superstition also plays a huge role. “It is believed that a woman will attain dignity in death only if she is married. Hence, even a child with special needs is symbolically married. If a woman is separated from her husband, she, too, turns a Devadasi as it is perceived to be more honourable than living single,” Mahalakshmi added.

Filing FIRs is a challenge and hence many incidents go undetected. “Police change the FIR statements buckling under political pressure,” they explained.

KSLSA member-secretary Shashidhara Shetty urged them to contact the authority’s district-level offices. KSCPCR chairperson Anthony Sebastian promised to send their plea to the government.

(Published 28 January 2021, 19:18 IST)

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