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OUR WOMEN MUST EITHER BE A WIFE, WIDOW OR DEVADASI

child_trafficking_tosin.jpg

In our community, there are only three roles for women; a wife, widow or devadasi......

Please go to my village and rescue other girls who are about to be initiated too…

I was told that I was dedicated to our god when I was three months and was taken to the temple and initiated, a chain was tied to my neck and my grandmother took to me to her house to serve the god, ever since I have been living with her, until the age of ten when I was introduced to my parents. I have a lots of struggles, my brother died five years ago, followed by my father which was two years ago and my mother will die any moment from now nobody believed that it was the incurable disease. Everyone in my community believed that I have brought evil on my parents because of the chain that was removed from my neck and taken to Bandhavi….I have lots of issues….

My mother is a devadasi, so I am supposed to be one too; I thought it was right because my mother is involved that it is good that I was involved too….

May be it was good in the past because I think it was just meant to serv.e god but later the system got polluted and devadasi were married off to their sponsors….

After I came here and learnt about another world that is when I believe that devadasi should be discontinued so when I go back to my village, I will be involved in the campaign to stop devadasi system...

They are girls between ages eight to eighteen, presently they are seventy five in number, they are beautiful, bright, young and just learning through semi formal education, there are variations in the colors and ages but they all have one thing in common, they escaped from the devadasi system into a new system called Bandhavi which means 'girl friend', they are liberated and free from oppression and they have one agitation; rescue other girls, "free my sister and neighbors daughters" was the song on their lips.

Devadasi is a coinage from two words, "deva" which means god and "dasi" means servant, literally it is a good name servant of god, but in actuality it is a girl child dedicated to serve god in the temple, unfortunately she is a priest during the day and the wife of the sponsor at night. These girls who are sacrificed are just unfortunate to be born into poverty and oppression through the devadasi mother system. It is a system uphold by religious belief and encouraged by the law that penalizes offenders but does not criminalize the offense, it is against the law but practiced by every member of these communities because there is no stiff punishment for the law breakers.

There are three reasons for a girl to be a devadasi in India; if there are only girls in a family, while others are married off one must remain in the family to sacrifice at the temple, she will be unmarried, remain at home to become the devadasi, the unofficial wife of the temple master, she is allowed to bear children for the master who is also the sponsor but the devadasi girls cannot marry him, she must remain unmarried to serve at the temple. Often the girls receive little or no assistant from the sponsor after delivery of several children as the case may be, later in life, they are forced to become prostitutes.

Secondly, when there is a major illness that runs in a family, it indicates that the gods wants the sacrifice of a virgin, therefore there will be a ritual to offer a girl from such family to the gods, this is believed to placate their god and secure his favour and protection from diseases. Thirdly, if the mother is devadasi, her daughter must toe the line.

Sexual intercourse with the sponsor of a devadasi girl begins immediately after the initiation. This is practiced especially with the Dalits who are mostly the poorest of the poor. Among the girls interviewed is a thirteen year old girl whose immediate younger sister has been married off to the sponsor because she was rescued by a Non Governmental Organization, devadasi is a name no one will ever allow anyone to call her child in a civilized world after watching the lives of devadasi who are predominantly from three states in India. The states are; Karnataka (North), Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, devadasi was stopped in Mumbai (Bombay) in 1972, but practiced in these three states till today.

The caste system in India left some indelible marks in the lives of the devadasi and the silence of the state in the face of this oppression cannot be ignored. Therefore every agitation to halt the oppression of the poor must be channeled towards the collapse of the class system in India. Poverty is not a disease, no one ever chooses to be poor, not a child will make such decision if allowed the freedom of choice but man inhumanity to fellow men has continually ingrained ugly systems in our society.

Their song continually echo in mind even long after their departure and it brought the words of Mahatma Ghandi to mind that “you will call India a truly free country when a woman is truly free to walk at night”, when women are free to make and live their choices, today India is at a crossroad like every other nation that refuses to accept the liberation of women long after these nations are free from external domination and oppression from colonial masters. Several women are still bearing the burden of oppression, from their family, community, state, supra state and the market (local, national and international); there is no freedom without responsibility, to be called a free state, every nation must be willing to free women.

One of the Bandhavi whispered these words into my ears.......please come and rescue other devadasi girls in my community.....and I whisper to your ears too......come let us rescue some of these girls in Northern Karnakata...let us rescue devadasi girls in India.....we can rescue every girl child from oppression...

Attached is a picture of activists in Bangalore India, watching the documentary of on Child Trafficking in Mumbai (Bombay) India

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Comments

Starland's picture

Thank you

Another very good and enlightening post. Thank you. Slavery certainly comes in many forms especially for the oppression of women and girls. My prayers are with them. Keep talking.....

ma 3709

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

olutosin's picture

Oh yes it is slavery

I believe it is lavery too, they are brought up to believe god dogmatically in order to use the avenue to keep them in bondage, thanks for the comment, I will keep on writing.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Nusrat Ara's picture

Dear Olutosin,As far as I

Dear Olutosin,

As far as I know it is not the master only that the devdasi caters to , it's all the men that come to her at the temple.

Nusrat

olutosin's picture

Thanks

Thanks

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

jadefrank's picture

Choosing our destiny

Dearest Tosin,

As you, I, and our sisters here know, when women have the ability to choose their own destiny - great things happen to her, to her family and to her community.

It is sad to hear of women like the devadasi who do not have the choice to follow their own destiny, but must live a life of servitude and abuse chosen by society. Because, what woman would choose this life?

Your reporting and interviews with women in India has taught me so much and shown me the fire that burns within the women you have met and the women from their communities who are ready to be empowered and break free from old traditions that oppress. And I see you blossoming as a journalist! Thank you for taking us along on your journey in India.

Love,
Jade

olutosin's picture

ENCOURAGING WORDS

Life is so strange sis, and I CONTINUE TO WONDER WHY IS THERE SO MUCH DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORLD! Thanks for your words of encouragement and you know that when it comes to WP I can do anything, anything sis.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

NatalieS's picture

good report

I think that deep down men realize that women are more inherently talented, that their brains are better constructed and their bodies are more flexible than a man's and so.................most unfortunately, men have attempted to hold back women through the ages. Weaker men somehow fear the power of women and invent systems to keep them enslaved, limited, ignorant of their self worth.
keep doing your job. Brava to you
Ma Natalie

NatalieS

olutosin's picture

OPINION

Ma, what gives men the impression that they are better off in the first instance? When ans how do we find ourselves in this predicament. My prayer is that teh next generation will realize that we are equal. Thanks Ma Natalie... for everything.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Rita Banerji's picture

right on!

It is something I have argued about female genocide in my book 'Sex and Power.' That the female genocide in India stems from deep inherent insecurity in the collective Indian male psyche!

Rita Banerji
www.ritabanerji.com

Rita Banerji's picture

So glad!

Dear Olutosin,

You are seeing India and coming to terms with it with your eyes wide open! And this is a very true report of what is happening with girls in certain communities. It is a very old profession -- and dates back to more than a 1000 years ago. And the girl is the "married" to the "god" of the temple, who she is supposed to serve by sexually serving the priest and any man who visits the temple. It essentially is forced prostitution in another guise. I know there are foreign NGOs that are pumping money and are trying to "buy" the girls from their parents. And the sad part is that it sometimes fuels greed -- because then the parents begin to bargain hard. There have been situations when they have been therefore unable to 'free' the girl. I think it is so important that the govt. of india makes a law -- where, if there can be ngo intervention, the courts and the ngo should have the power to remove the girl child from that house. Because as much as we want to believe it -- all families do not have the best intention at heart for their child.

Rita Banerji
www.ritabanerji.com

jadefrank's picture

Olutosin's repsonse

See Olutosin's post below.

olutosin's picture

My Dear Jade Frank

I posted it before I saw it, thanks so much Madam De Madam....

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

olutosin's picture

It saddens my heart

My dear friend, it saddens my heart to see what parents can do to their own children, and I continue to wonder if these children are the same children i have and pamper so much.....shower with love and hugs while they do not even give me any outrageous demands..How can someone sell her child or his child?
I wept many nights when i was in India. I visited an NGO in Bangalore that works with girls sold into slavery...I watched the documentary and began to vomit......I want to do something and will love to collaborate with any one working in that area.
Love you friend...

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Rita Banerji's picture

a critical point

You have touched on a critical point Olutosin. Even if you go back to the Artha-shastra -- a text that was written around 400B.C., women and children are listed as property of men along with land, house and cattle.

This is the basic problem in India -- children are viewed as property. Not as human beings but property.

A few years ago an NGO refused an award by the UNDP because they said that they promote population control and that is not fair to the poor.

What they were basically saying is that the poor need to have many children, so they can put those children to use for their income. India's economy is warped. It is corrupt and it is feudal. But to negate population control, so the poor can have children for their income -- is like supporting biological slavery.

What we need to contend with is that reproduction is not a right -- it is a responsibility. And every child has the right to food, shelter, and most importantly safety.

I have always said: If you spray, you pay. And if you cannot pay -- you keep it zipped up!!!!!

Each child is a citizen of India and it is the job of the Supreme court to protect its basic rights even if it means protecting it from its own parents!!! I remember cases in the U.S. too where women who were drug addicts would prostitute their little girls. And the law has to intervene and remove the child from that woman's custody. And yes, most of these cases happen among the poorer sections. But poverty and lack of education does NOT give you the excuse or the privilege to abuse your children.

This is a fundamental flaw in India's legal system. Because the Indian laws do not support this idea.

You know a few years ago a major magazine in India had done a report on a village where house after house had a baby girl buried in their backyard. They dug up the skeletons and x-rayed them and all their necks were broken. They published these pictures. The village went beserk. They rioted in the city. Burned buses. attacked the office and staff of this magazine. And the chief minister (equivalent of senator) said that the villagers reputation had been attacked so it was justified. The courts the police could do nothing. India runs by mob rule! This is what the mob wants. What do you do?

Rita Banerji
www.ritabanerji.com

olutosin's picture

Solution

My Dear Rita,
The fact that we cannot proffer solution to this menace infuriates me and so many people thinking that all I can do is to get angry makes me feel ashamed of myself too! What can we do? When those we think we are saving are backslahing and backstabbing us? i felt like an Indian when I was in India...I was thinking like a normal progressive Indian that a woman wants to be my mother and I gladly accept....If education cannot erode evil thought, barbaric practices and wicked caste, what can we do?

The solution is really the point at which I am pondering, it cannot continue like this? We must not allow it to continue like this, where I lived in India, there were these beautiful Dalits girls, they are charming and someone decided that they must be sacrificed because of who they are? Who can decide his or her birth? Is it not better to fight with their creators than to make them slaves.

The stand of the government makes me puke! Although they are the products of the society but how come they are stagnant....I can see Nigeria in everything Indian, may be we all are one then.....Rita Love, I fear for mankind, I fear for when the oppressed will be transformed, I fear revolt, when the leaders will discover that they too can become puns in the hands of these oppressed when they are liberated.

But when will that be?

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

NatalieS's picture

what can we do

These posts are full of information, outrage, good sense, hope and despair. Women working together can overcome the despair, and give each other courage to go on. Outrage must be sustained, as well as continuous work toward the very human goal of giving more equality to the genders. Real change is very very slow, and occurs in small ways and in small amounts. The trick is to keep believing in what you are doing, and knowing you are talking about the fundamental rights of human beings to live their lives in freedom, and within a system of justice. Government systems are complex and difficult to manoever. Mostly they are man made, and therefore favor the rights of men. So slowly slowly this will change. In the US, the balance of power on the Supreme Court is going to change. Our next woman judge, Elana Kagan, will be questioned next week before the congress, and despite some opposition, will be confirmed. If one more judge retires, his replacement will no doubt also be a woman. Cheers for Hillary Clinton, a strong, intelligent woman who fights tirelessly despite the malice toward her of many powerful men.
Keep your outrage, but also keep your heads. Raw emtion is never the answer. Brain and heartpower is.
my best to you all
NatalieS

NatalieS

olutosin's picture

Brains on Worldpulse

Thanks so much for the comment Ma Natalie, This family is full of women and men of brains and heart-power and whenever I think of way forward, there is always an answer. Thanks for this....

The trick is to keep believing in what you are doing, and knowing you are talking about the fundamental rights of human beings to live their lives in freedom, and within a system of justice. Government systems are complex and difficult to maneuver. Mostly they are man made, and therefore favor the rights of men.

I am convinced that I am in the right direction......

Thanks ma, I am listening and following these advise...I believe that the sky is the beginning ...Yes I believe in working...
I am so happy for the tremendous change that is happening to women all over the world, I believe that we will attain the equality we are fighting for because some people fought for women to vote, they began to vote, voted for women to be elected and they are being elected and some fought for women Judges too, here they are......I told you about the book about the 20 women of Influence, it was pushing me and today, though some are shy I can say I am a feminist who believe in feminism ideas and the solution that is in our hands and the change is just by the corner...

Thanks for mentoring me ma....

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Y's picture

Bearing sons for war is also

Bearing sons for war is also homage to those who see themselves as gods.

Yvette

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