Bulletin News

Speaker to Discuss the Devadasi and Human Rights in India


The 2017-18 Rozanne M. Brooks Lecture Series at SUNY Cortland takes on the theme of “The Culture of Human Rights and Realities.”

The talks take place on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. in Moffett Center, Room 2125. Before each lecture a reception to welcome the speaker starts at 4 p.m. in the Rozanne M. Brooks Museum, Moffett Center, Room 2126.

On Nov. 8, Shalini Aiyappa, who heads the Psychology Department at St. Aloysius College in India, will give a presentation on the Devadasi system, a story of sexually exploited women from the lower rungs of society in rural India.

Her talk, “The Devadasi and Human Rights: Blind Faith, Promised Redemption and Patriarchal Prison,” explores the irony that this culturally oppressive system has a religious connection that legitimizes and sanctions prostitution. The belief is that any calamity, disease or lack of a male child can be rectified by sacrificing a girl child to appease the god.

Recently poverty has driven expansion of the Devadasi system. For example, 50 percent of Mumbai prostitutes are Devadasi. The path from ritual role to commercial prostitution in the name of religion is a human rights issue.

The Indian constitution guarantees equality to all citizens and the government has passed legislation against the Devadasi system. Nonetheless, it is still practiced, relying on loopholes in, and the laxity of, the law enforcement agencies. The inhuman practice of “religious prostitution” continues today. 

The 2017-18 Brooks Lecture Series is sponsored by a grant from Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC) and the Cortland College Foundation.

For more information, contact Sharon R. Steadman, a SUNY Cortland professor of sociology/anthropology, lecture series organizer and Brooks Museum director, at  607-753-2308.