Rape in the name of religion

A preteen girl aging between 10 and 12 years is dressed in a red or yellow or blue or orange sari, with a garland around the neck, a vermillion mark on the forehead, and open hair touching the shoulders. Is she going to be worshipped as a kanya kumari? No. She is going to be raped in the name of religion and sacrificed to the libido of priests.

It is a bitter truth about the orthodox Hindu culture, associated with the menstruation of girls, in some remote backwaters of South India. The religious ceremony of raping minor girls when they begin to menstruate is performed by Hindu priests to bless the girls for womanhood, in some remote South Indian villages.

In some Hindu communities of Koppal, an impoverished district in Karnataka, it is believed that when minor girls hit puberty, their journey towards womanhood begins. So, they need to be purified, worshipped and blessed ceremoniously by priests in the manner which is not barbaric to the eyes of religion.

It is not just a ceremony but a celebration; the celebration of girls’ transition into womanhood. When the girls scream out of pain during the ‘raping ritual’ within the confines of a religious place (the temples dedicated to the deity Yellemma during the eras of Devdasi in India), their family members are busy offering gastronomic entertainment to the relatives in the temple complex.

The shrieks of pain penetrate the confines and pervade the air outside, but the smiling faces of the invitees remain unaffected. When the door opens and the raping priests come out carnally satisfied, all attendees stand up to catch a glimpse of the girls who cannot walk with stable steps due to pain in the genital area. Now they are blessed and prepared for a new phase – womanhood.

This is my find from several articles including one titled “Where Virginity is for sale in India” about this puberty ritual in the orthodox Hindu religion, in the ‘India Real Time’ section of the Wall Street Journal. Though legally banned in the current decade, this religious practice has not been uprooted from the superstitious core of society.

This harsh reality was adapted for the celluloid in 2001. Director Digvijay Singh made the Hindi movie Maya on this subject. It was released in India in 2001 and the USA in 2002. The movie ends with the footnote, “5,000 to 15,000 girls are dedicated to such or similar practices every year”. You can watch the climax of the movie here.

You may find this subject irrelevant after 12 years of the release of the movie. It refers to perpetual exploitation of girls and women as sex objects for the male libido, which still exist in our society. Daily rape news on various media channels bears evidence to it.

Note: This article does not intend to distort the face of the Hindu religion, culture and community in rural India. Highlighting the prevalence of such or similar superstitious practices in the name of religion by a section of society is the purpose of the article.

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