Advika M & Arthi R, Sastra University, Tanjore, Tamil Nadu
Devadasis or Joginis were young girls dedicated to the service of temples. This system was widely practiced in southern India, where they had a rich artistic tradition of dance and music, and were protected by their royal patrons. However, the modern day variation of the Devadasi practice is a mere shadow of the Hindu religious practice it was over 1700 years ago. Today, it is synonymous with temple prostitution and ritualized sex slavery. Former embodiments of godly elegance and grace, who were held in such high esteem, are now leading lives of abject poverty and forced prostitution.
Unlike its sacred origin story, the tradition is now fuelled by caste bias, poverty, community pressure and superstitious beliefs. The practice is believed to have died out years ago. However, it is still prevalent in some parts of South India. This paper will trace out the history of Devadasis and the circumstances that led to their current situation. It will delve into an account of the difficulties faced by them, as well as the lacunae in the legislations passed by the government. Most importantly, a three-fold strategy to eradicate this practice and rehabilitate the women and their children will be detailed. This is an archaic practice of established gender inequality that is rooted in cultural patterns, and it must come to an end.
KEYWORDS: Women’s rights, Devadasi, Jogini, prostitution, rehabilitation strategy