Prostitution is often regarded as the world’s oldest profession. It has existed since time immemorial and probably will continue to do so. Indian culture with its vast diversities is no exception. On one hand it has condemned prostitutes by ostracizing them and on the other hand it has accommodated it as in the case of the devadasi system. It was in this backdrop that I developed an interest to study this inherent contradiction. There are two other reasons for choosing this topic- a) the interest generated through a class discussion; and b) the question of legalization of prostitution that has come to the forefront with an increase in the number of rape cases and crimes against women registered. I am interested to study this with the help of devadasi system, an organized system in prostitution. The devadasi system, in particular, has captured my attention because of a documentary that was screened in the class. The documentary opined that the institution was dominant in South India and most importantly that it had religious sanction. Such alarming information, I thought, definitely required a deeper study. Also since, thankfully, the institution does not exist now; the measures or the means through which it was washed out of the society interested me. But before reviewing various articles on prostitution and devadasi system it is important to get a conceptual clarity. Bloch held that prostitution was a distinct form of extramarital sexual activity characterized by being more or less promiscuous, was seldom without reward, and was a form of professional commercialism for the purpose either of intercourse or of other forms of sexual activities and allurement, resulting in due time in the formation of a special type. (Bullough & Bullough, 1996) The term devadasi literally means “servant of the god”. It refers to the class of women who through various ceremonies of 'marriage' are dedicated or dedicate themselves to the deities of temples and other ritual objects. (Srinivasan, 1985). Most often these devadasi’s were used to satiate the sexual needs of the priests and also the upper class men. The following is a review on five scholarly articles on prostitution and devadasi system. Article 1:
The article has an interesting approach towards prostitution. The main objective of the article, as the title suggests, is to look at the current research and changing interpretations of prostitution. By finding it difficult to come to a consensus on the definition the writer gives the background in which prostitution evolved. In fact St. Augustine held that If prostitutes were removed society would be polluted with lust and established patterns of sexual relationship would be endangered (i.e., males might turn to other males. The writer also expresses ambivalence and is of the strong viewpoint that prostitution was not widely studied in the past and in the present the figures are inaccurate because even in those countries where prostitution has been or is legally regulated, only a portion of women actually practicing prostitution are listed on the official roles. In the paper, the writer also sights various findings of many different scholars that were conducted around the world. Their conclusions suggest that there was a much higher proportion of the female population engaged in prostitution in the 19th and early 20th century than there is now. This can be attributed to the economic and social conditions in these countries. It is interesting to note that the writer pays attention to prostitution and military. He says that during the Japanese military recruited prostitutes because sexual satisfaction of the soldiers and sailors has always been a concern for the military. Further the article explores various causes that lead to prostitutes becoming prostitutes like social, religious, economic and many others. Various psychological studies and interpretations of prostitution is also given in the article....
References: 1. Anandhi, S. (1991). Representing Devadasis: 'Dasigal Mosavalai ' as a Radical Text. Economic and Political Weekly , 739-746.
2. Bradford, N. J. (1983). Transgenderism and the Cult of Yellamma: Heat, Sex, and Sickness in South Indian Ritual. Journal of Anthropological Research , 307-322.
3. Bullough, B., & Bullough, V. L. (1996). Female Prostitution: Current Research and Changing Interpretations. Annual Review of Sex Research .
4. Patra, B. (2004). DEVADĀSĪ SYSTEM IN ORISSA: A CASE STUDY OF THE JAGANNĀTHA TEMPLE OF PURI. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , 159-172.
5. Srinivasan, A. (1985). Reform and Revival: The Devadasi and Her Dance. Economic and Political Weekly , 1869-1876.
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