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Worship of virtually naked young girls in South Indian temples ‘slavery, abuse’, says NHRC

By Newsd
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Image: q8india

The National Human Rights Commission in a report has termed the practice of keeping young girls in temples for worshipping as goddesses as part of rituals in south India as ‘abuse and slavery’. In the ritual, girls are dressed as brides and then undressed, virtually leaving them naked. It is a form of the banned devadasi system, the commission said.

The commission noted that the practice that ‘dedicates’ girls to a life of sex work in the name of religion, continues despite being banned in 1988, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and parts of western India. “They are denied to live with their families and have an education. They are forced to live in Mathamma temples, deemed to be… public property and face sexual exploitation,” the commission said.

The report was referring to a 15-day festival that concluded on Tuesday. Local goddesses are worshipped and seven young girls are chosen to stay in the temple. However, the state government denied accusations of abuse.

“Our child protection team has visited the temple in question and parents are there to take care of the girls,” said K Veera Raghava Rao, the administrative head of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu. “These are 200-year-old traditions that are being practiced in many village temples across the region. We have not found any case of abuse and our officials are monitoring the functions. We have asked them to cover the girls with a shawl.”

These girls are then forbidden to marry and must earn their living by dancing at temples. “As you travel through the region, the names keep changing, but the fact is that women are being forced into prostitution in the name of rituals,” said Priyamvada Mohan Singh, a criminology professor who carried out a survey in 2016 on the devadasi tradition for the Indian government.