Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra are the states which have received these notices. They have been asked to submit a detailed report within six weeks. The governments have been asked to include data on the steps taken or proposed to be taken by the authorities to prevent the Devadasi system and to rehabilitate the women.’Devadasi’ system is practised in various parts of India as per which a young girl is devoted and married to a deity before she reaches puberty. She then acts as a caretaker to the temple and deity she has been devoted to. In recent times, this practice has been used to push girls into prostitution.
“Various laws have been enacted in the past to stop the malpractice of the Devadasi system but it is still prevailing. The apex court has also taken a stern stance in condemning the malpractice of dedicating young girls as Devadasis,” the note stated.
Condemning the practice as an evil done to women by subjecting them to sexual exploitation and prostitution, the Supreme Court called it a gross violation of Right to Life, Dignity and Equality of women.
The media report highlighted by the NHRC mentioned that most of the victims belong to poor families, and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The report explained, “In the process of making a girl a Devadasi, she is married to the deity of any temple and she spends the rest of her life taking care of the priest and the daily rituals of the temple.
“Most of the victims of this malpractice are being subjected to sexual abuse. They are sexually exploited by men, impregnated, and left on their fate.”
The panel noted that the Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments had declared the ‘Devadasi’ system illegal in 1982 and 1988 respectively but the practice still continues in these states.
“Reportedly, more than 70,000 women are leading their lives as Devadasis in Karnataka alone. A commission constituted under the chairmanship of Justice Raghunath Rao had held that there are 80,000 Devadasis in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” it said.