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Law to curb it was passed in 1982; yet girls continue to be forced into ‘devadasi’ practice

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Bengaluru, Jan 17: It's more than 36 years since the Karnataka Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act of 1982 was passed but yet the objectionable practice of maintaining 'devadasis' to 'appease gods' has continued in the interior parts of Karnataka along with those in neighbouring Goa. The state government is yet to set up rules to administer the law.

Law to curb it was passed in 1982; yet girls continue to be forced into ‘devadasi’ practice

According to a report in The Hindu, two fresh studies on the age-old practice of offering young girls for the gods' appeasement - one by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, came up with the shocking reality which still plagues oppressed communities in the state with the law doing little to curb it.

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"A disturbing aspect revealed by the new studies is that special children, with physical or mental disabilities, are more vulnerable to be dedicated as devadasis - nearly one in five (or 19%) of the devadasis that were part of the NLSIU study exhibited such disabilities," the Hindu report said.

NLSIU researchers found that girls from poor socio-economic communities continued to fall prey to the custom and forced into commercial sex market. The TSS's findings said that the tradition was still receiving patronage from families and communities. And we are about to end the second decade of the 21st century!

Reporting of cases related to devadasi practice under the state's law in Karnataka is very low with just four of them surfacing between 2011 and 2017. Even then the law is put to use sparingly and focuses on prosecution, even of the victims, with little scope for rehabilitation.

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Last April, an article in The Times of India said how eminent historian-writer William Dalrymple's article 'Serving the Goddess' caught international attention to the practice between 2007 and 2011. According to the report, the devadasis were mostly found in the interiors of North Karnataka and absence of enlightenment and prevalence of conservative beliefs and superstitions made people attune themselves with systematic rape and violation of human rights as they send their young daughters to serve as devadasis.

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