The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) has issued notices on 25 September to the governments and police chiefs of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh over the alleged inhuman treatment that has been meted out to girls and women who are forcibly taken to temples as part of an old ritual that resembles the banned ‘Devadasi’‘ system.
The Commission has pointed out that these girls and women were allegedly taken to the temples of Goddess Mathamma as an “offering”. The commission has cited a media report about the continuance of such practices in Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu and adjoining places. It has referred to such practices as severe.
Notices have been issued to the chief secretaries and the director general of police of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and the district magistrates and superintendents of police of Thiruvallur and Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. The commission had sought the reply within four weeks from the authorities.
The Logical Indian contacted the NHRC about their press statement. The office of Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, Deputy Director (Media and Communication), confirmed that some of these girls were minors.
Allegedly, as part of the ritual, the girls are dressed up as a bride, and once the ceremony is over, their clothes are removed by five boys, virtually leaving them naked.
“They are denied to live with their families and have an education. They are forced to live in Mathamma temple deemed to be like a public property and face sexual exploitation,” the NHRC said.
These girls, or ‘Mathammas’ as they are referred to in parts of Tamil Nadu, are forbidden to marry and must earn their living by dancing at the Hindu temples.
In some cases, young girls after being initiated into the practice are left 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.
The rights panel has also observed that if the allegations turn out to be true, these will amount to a violation of human rights, including the right to education, rights to life and dignity and children’s rights.
This practice is alleged “another form of Devadasi system”, which is still practised in some parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, NHRC has pointed out.
Devadasi system is a banned religious practice in some areas of India whereby parents marry a daughter to a deity or a temple. The marriage usually occurs before the girl reaches puberty.
There have been allegations that Devadasis are often subjected to sexual exploitation in the name of religion.
The Union Home Ministry in December 2015 had asked all states to take firm action against those involved in the heinous practice which is against the dignity of women.
The Logical Indian community appeals to the concerned authorities to carry out a proper investigation into the matter and to submit their report within the stipulated time period so that necessary actions can be taken against such violations of human rights.