The supreme court had the occasion[1] to discuss the practice of Devdasi, Jogins and Venkatansin, for the eradication of prostitution when a petition was filed before the court to segregate the children of prostitutes from them and to provide them better educational facility.

The existence of practice

The court stated:-

“The customary initiation of women in the practice of Devadasi, Jogins and Venkatansins is prevalent in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra areas: in particular, the practice of prostitution is notorious.

It is an affront to the human dignity and self-respect but the pursuit of customary beliefs traps the fair sex into this glorified self-sacrifice and ultimately leads to prostitution service in the temples and charitable institutions etc. which is a crime against humanity, violation of human rights and obnoxious to constitution and Human Rights Act.

Fundamentalists and proponents of these practices are constitutional criminals. The unfounded customs cannot ave legal sanction. On the other hand, penal enactments provide for abolition thereof. Instead of progressive outlook, regressive unfortunate tendency, of late, is raising its ugly head to glorify these ignominious practices which is leading not only to abetment of commission of the crime, but also misleading the unfortunated illiterate and weaker sections of the society, to be taken in seriously by he later by their false promises or false theories such as God’s ordain which finds easy acceptance by the poor and illiterate and is acted upon.

Every right thinking person should condemn such attempts apart from prohibiting initiation of the nasty practice wherein the eldest girl child in particular families, is offered as Devadasi or Jogin or Venkatasin, by whatever local name they are called. They are making the lives of the girl miserable; in the guise of prosperous future and custom, the girl is detained in prostitution for no fault of her. This is prevalent in particular six districts of Karnataka, viz., Raichur, Bijapur, Belgaum Dharwar, Bellary and Gulbarge where their number is identified as 21,306.

In Andhra Pradesh, in five districts, namely, Medak, Karimnager, Nizamabad, Nalgonda and Warangal, such girls are known as Jogins as per the survey conducted in 1996, as many as 16,300 Jogins were found in that State. Similarly, in Maharashtra, they are found in large number, in particular in Marathawada and Vidarbha regions.

The common features of such women is that predominantly they are from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward Classes. The eldest girl in every family is being offered as Devadasi, Jogin or Venkatasin. Sometimes, they do redeem the pledge made to the Gods or Goddesses, etc. Original families of these Devadasis, Jogins or Venkatansins were by and large poor. They are primarily agricultural having no access to credit facilities or literacy. The eldest girl in each family is driven to prostitution.

The system has been in existence for years as a result of lack of awareness about the exploited segments of the Devadasis etc. Many families which dedicate their girls, do so due to the pursuit of customary practices. Economic rehabilitation is one of the factors that prevent the practice of dedication of the young girls to the prostitution as Devadasis, Jogins or Venkatansins. Their economic empowerment and education gives resistance to such exploitation; however, economic programmes are necessary to rehabilitate such victims of customs or practices.

They are being rehabilitated with the help of vocational training centres set up in Maharashtra giving preferential admission into educational training institutes; they are admitted into informal adult education.

In Maharashtra, educational training centres have been opened for devadasis. In Karnataka, Devadasi women have been assisted under DWCRA schemes in various districts. in particular six district, where an extensive devadasi rehabilitation programme is in full force. The Karnataka State Woman’s Development Corporation and the Karnatakie State Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe Development Corporation are implementing this programme in the aforesaid six districts where the phenomenon of devadasi system is being observed ; training is imparted in hand-weaving, 50% subsidy is given in weaving ; good work-shed is given to them free of costs ; income assistance like micro-business enterprises, rope and basket making etc. are being provided to devadasi woman for rehabilitating them.

Training in production of soap, chalk making Khadi and weaving activities is being imparted in Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka State also has taken the lead in forming self-helping group of devadasis; a thrift and saving programme is being implemented in some areas.

Social Welfare Departments should undertake these rehabilitation programmes for the fallen victims of social practice so that the foul practice is totally eradicated and the fallen women are redeemed from the plight and are not again trapped into the prostitution.

In Andhra Pradesh, the State Government is providing housing sites or house facilities to devadasi women; they are getting free treatment in hospitals. Devadasi women aged about 60 years and above are being given pension. In order to improve literacy, adult literacy programmes are being organised for them. The NGOs in these three States are playing important role in implementation of various programmes and they are largely concentrating on generating awareness among these persons and their economic rehabilitation.

It would, therefore, be meaningful if rehabilitation programmes are launched and implementation machinery is set not only to eradicate the fertile source of prostitution but also for successful rehabilitation of the fallen women who are the victims of circumstances to regain their lost respect to the dignity of person to sustain equality of status, economic and their social empowerment.”


Gaurav Jain V. Union of India; (1997) 8 SCC 114

[1] Gaurav Jain V. Union of India; (1997) 8 SCC 114