The Andhra Pradesh government has finally begun to frame rules for the Devadasi Prohibition Act that was adopted 27 years ago.
The act was first formulated by the state in 1988, but the government had not framed any rules for the officials to follow in case a violation of the act was found.
Devadasi translates to the 'servant of God', and in the Devadasi system, young girls serve and were sometimes married off to the local deity of a temple. However, the Indian government had banned the practice as the women were subjected to sexual exploitation.
The Times of India reports:
Framing the rules on Wednesday , the AP government has proposed to constitute a protection cell and post a woman protection officer in every district to rehabilitate devadasis. The protection cell with the assistance of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will collect information on incidences, likely potential areas and individuals, including both victims and perpetrators of such cases. The cell will maintain a record of such data and conduct awareness camps. It will guide the victims in filing complaints.
The report also adds that a devadasi can now go for a legal marriage and a child born to a devadasi out of a reasonable period of cohabitation with a person will be legitimate and will have all the rights under the law including that of inheritance.
In February this year, a one-man commission headed by Justice Raghunath Rao, a former judge, had found that the age-old social practice is prevalent in all districts in both states with about 80,000 Devadasi women.
This was much over the estimated number of the AP social welfare commission, which put the figure at 24,273.