You might be surprised to learn that the practice of dedicating young women to become Joginis is actually illegal in India. In fact it has been against the law for about 25 years… but the practice nevertheless continues.
The Devadasi Prevention & Abolition of Dedication Act (“Jogini Act”) passed into law in Andhra Pradesh in March1988. But after it was passed, no framework of rules were ever put in place for the police or legal practitioners to use in order to enforce the act. In fact, in the 25 years since the act came into force only eight cases have ever been filed under it. Of these, two resulted in acquittal, four are pending and two are still under investigation.
Pratigya has therefore filed something called ‘Public Interest Litigation’ before Honorable High Court. This essentially calls for proper rules to be framed, to enable real enforcement of the Jogini Act. Whilst the case is still pending, the Government has taken concrete steps as a result of our litigation.
In order to gather the information that would be required, a ‘One Man Commission’ was set up to investigate the issue and to make recommendations. Pratigya has developed a strong relationship with the Commissioner and submitted a dossier of evidence to him. His final report and recommendations was submitted very recently, in July 2013, and we are heartened that much of our evidence and many of are suggestions are included in this report.
It will still take time for the legislative process to create and enact the new legal framework, but the ball is now rolling. We hope this will ultimately empower local law enforcement to take action to prevent future dedication of underage girls into a life of prostitution.