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Old February 28th, 2002, 02:17 PM
Sexy Sexy is offline
Junior eCharchan
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 19
Sexy is on a distinguished road
A goddess by day, but a prostitute at night

In the morning, Maya is worshipped as a goddess. But as soon as the sun sets, she retreats into a room with her father's 'friend'.

Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh)- Unbelievable as it sounds, young girls are initiated into prostitution by the Banchhara community in rural Madhya Pradesh, India, where male members of the community live off the earnings of their daughters and sisters.

Ritually sanctioned caste-based prostitution is widely prevalent among the Banchharas. It is customary among the Banchharas to 'dedicate' their eldest daughter into prostitution. "They believe that they have divine sanction to initiate their daughter into the flesh trade. For them, it is God's will. Ironically, it is not a male God who ordains this prostitution, it is a Goddess," says Justice Gulab Gupta, Chairman, Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC), which took up this issue as it felt that a violation of fundamental rights was being carried in the name of religion.

"Conditioning these girls from an early age to accept prostitution as their destiny and their religious duty is the worst form of human rights violation," asserts Gupta who goes on to say that, "it is only in India where girls are worshipped and marketed as it forms an inherent part of their religious cult."

A tale of princely overtures

The Banchharas, whose present population is a little over 17,000, are said to have migrated to the Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh about 500 years ago from the neighbouring state of Rajasthan. Although there is no authentic recorded history of the Banchharas, the most popular legend about them is that when a Rajput king of Mewar in Rajasthan saw a beautiful girl belonging to the Kanjar tribe, he abducted her.

When her community demanded her release, the king refused. After the girl became pregnant, she was sent back to her community. But her community refused to take her back and the girl migrated to another district where she gave birth to a girl. It is said that she initiated the king's daughter into the flesh trade to exact revenge for her humiliation.

Thus began the custom of initiating daughters into prostitution. It is also believed that since neither the king nor her community accepted her, the mother and daughter began to be called Banchharas or 'people who had no roots'. This community is only found in Madhya Pradesh and not anywhere else in the country.

Division of labour is strictly followed

Banchhara women are divided into two categories. This division is socially sanctioned and religiously follows 'division of labour'. The elder daughters are reserved for prostitution while the younger ones are allowed to marry. The daughters who marry in turn follow this custom with their daughters, and the vicious circle gets repeated, thus perpetuating this custom.

According to the Banchhara custom, once the girl becomes 12 years of age, she makes a declaration that she is ready to become a prostitute. This is made at a well-organised function attended by her mother, sisters and female relatives. The girl worships the family Goddess Narsi Mata and seeks her blessings. After the ceremony, she is led into a room where her first customer awaits her. Of course, there is no holy book that lays down that Narsi Mata wanted girls to take to prostitution.

In fact, there is nothing in Hinduism to suggest that Banchharas, who are Hindus, would invite divine wrath if this custom were not followed. Yet, this belief continues.
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