Devadasi' system continues to exist despite ban: Book

Thiruvananthapuram: The banned 'devadasi' system, in which women are dedicated in local temples for the service of the deity and later allegedly forced into sex trade, still exists in many parts of India, according to a new book.

"Visudha Papangalude India" (India:The Land of Holy Sins), a Malayalam book which will hit the bookstores soon, says many of the 'devadasis' are forced into flesh trade to earn their daily bread as they are denied a normal family life.

Journalist-turned-writer Arun Ezhuthachan unveils in the book, the plight and painful struggle of marginalised women, including 'devadasis', who are subjected to various kinds of exploitation in the name of rituals and religious practices.

"We talk about various kinds of exploitation and harassment against women. But the problems of marginalised groups like devadasis are different," Arun said.

"It is really shocking to know that women are exploited in the name of centuries-old rituals and religious customs even now, in this 21st century. The painful saga of widows of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, who are destined to live as
Lord Krishna's beloved Radha, is also not different," he said.

The book, published by DC books, also throws light into the life and problems faced by sex workers in redlight areas in the country, including Kamathipura and Sonagachi.

The interview with some of the widows of Vrindavan, who reach the temple town after being ostracised by their families and society, gives a grim picture about the life of marginalised women in the modern India.

"As per law books, the devadasi system is not in practice anywhere in the country and it was banned by law in all states in different periods. But I met a number of young women who had been dedicated to deities in recent times in rural villages of states like Karnataka," Arun, a reporter with Malayala Manorama daily, said.

As they were not allowed to marry anybody or led a normal family life, many of them were forced to turn to flesh trade either in their own villages or in red light areas in cities, he said.

According to the book, as per official figures, as many as 46,000 former devadasis have been identified in Karnataka alone, adding, they are getting a meagre pension of Rs 500 per month.

The book claims that a section of forward class communities wanted the continuation of the devadasi system. According to the book, there are some groups who help the victims with an eye on religious conversion.

"The book is an outcome of seven years of my research and frequent travels which I undertook in seven states of the country. It is expected to help readers get the realistic picture of marginalised women and their sufferings," the writer said.

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