In some parts of South India, some bare-chested young girls are found in temples. This is the practice of keeping young girls worshipped as goddesses as part of rituals. However, this amounts to abuse and slavery, the country’s top human rights body has said. In this 200 years old tradition, girls are dressed as brides and then “their dresses are removed, virtually leaving them naked”. This tradition is a form of the banned devadasi system.
The Devadasi System practised in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and some parts of western India. The National Human Rights Commission says, “It “dedicates” girls to a life of sex work in the name of religion, continues despite being outlawed in 1988. They are denied to live with their families and have the education. They are forced to live in Mathamma temples, deemed to be … public property and face sexual exploitation.”
This is a traditional festival of Tamil Nadu which lasts for 15 days. On the last day, local goddesses are worshipped and seven young girls are chosen by the community to stay in the temple. However, the state government of Tamil Nadu has denied all the accusations of abuse. The administrative head of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu, K Veera Raghava Rao said,
“Our child protection team has visited the temple in question and parents are there to take care of the girls. These are 200-year-old traditions that are practised 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.”
But campaigners under the shield of religion, many young girls are abused. Hundreds of girls between the ages of 7 to 10 are made to stay in the temple premises during the festivities. Campaigners said, ” In some cases, young girls being initiated into the practice have to be bare-chested with only garlands and jewels covering them, while in others they are made to carry pots of liquor as part of the celebrations.”