Devdasi Pratha around Globe

Devadasi tradition
The definite origin of Devadasi tradition is unknown to history. There appears no mention of such tradition in the ancient works of Buddhist Jatakas, Kaultilya and Vatsyayana. ... An inscription dated to the 11th century suggests that there were 400 Devadasis attached to the temple at Tanjore in South India.

In parts of southern and eastern India, a devadasi or jogini is a girl "dedicated" to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life. The age group of a girl to be converted as devadasi is 7–36 years. The dedication takes place in a Pottukattu ceremony which is similar in some ways to marriage.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A 1920s photograph of two Devadasis in Tamil Nadu, South India

In parts of southern and eastern India, a devadasi (Sanskrit: देवदासी, lit. 'female servant of deva (god)') or jogini is a girl "dedicated" to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life. The age group of a girl to be converted as devadasi is 7–36 years. The dedication takes place in a Pottukattu ceremony which is similar in some ways to marriage. Originally, in addition to taking care of the temple and performing rituals, these women learned and practiced classical Indian artistic traditions like Bharatanatya and Odissi dances. They enjoyed a high social status as dance and music were essential part of temple worship.

Traditionally, devadasis had a high status in society. After becoming concubines to wealthy patrons, they spent their time honing their religious rituals and dance instead of becoming housewives. They had children from high officials or priests who were also taught their skills of music or dance. Often their patrons had other servants who served them as housewives. Eminent personalities that have hailed from this community are Bharat Ratna M S Subbalakshmi and Padma Vibhushan Ms Balasaraswathi.

During British rule, in the Indian subcontinent, kings who were the patrons of temples and temple arts lost their power. As a result, devadasis were left without their traditional means of support and patronage. During colonial times, reformists worked towards outlawing the devadasi tradition on grounds that it supported prostitution. Colonial views on devadasis are hotly disputed by several groups and organizations in India and by western academics. The British were unable to distinguish the devadasi from the girls who danced in the streets for the reasons other than spiritual devotion to the deity. This caused socio-economic deprivation and perusal of folk arts.

Recently the devadasi system has started to disappear, having been outlawed in all of India in 1988.

Devadasis are also known by various other local terms, such as jogini. Furthermore, the devadasi practice is known as basivi in Karnataka, matangi in Maharashtra and Bhavin and Kalavantin in Goa. It is also known as venkatasani, nailis, muralis and theradiyan. There were Devadasis from iyer communities as they performed Bharatanatiyam. Devadasi are sometimes referred to as a caste; however, some question the accuracy of this usage. "According to the devadasis themselves there exists a devadasi 'way of life' or 'professional ethic' (vritti, murai) but not a devadasi jāti (sub-caste). Later, the office of devadasi became hereditary but it did not confer the right to work without adequate qualification" (Amrit Srinivasan, 1985). In Europe the term bayadere (from French: bayadère, ascending to Portuguese: balhadeira, literally dancer) was occasionally used.


According to rules concerning temple worship (Agamas), dance and music are necessary ingredients of daily puja of deities in temples.

Ancient and medieval period

The definite origin of Devadasi tradition is unknown to history. There appears no mention of such tradition in the ancient works of Buddhist Jatakas, Kaultilya and Vatsyayana. Many scholars have noted that the tradition has no basis in scriptures. Altekar states, "the custom of association of dancing girls with temples is unknown to Jataka literature. It is not mentioned by Greek writers, and Arthashastra, which describes in detail the life of Ganikas, is silent about it."

The link of dancing girls with temples is said to be developed during the 3rd century AD. The mention of such dancing girls is found in the Meghadūta of Kalidasa, a classical poet and Sanskrit writer of the Gupta Empire in ancient India. Other sources include the works of authors such as Xuanzang, a Chinese traveller, and Kalhana, a Kashmiri historian. An inscription dated to the 11th century suggests that there were 400 Devadasis attached to the temple at Tanjore in South India. Similarly, there were 500 Devadasis at Someshwer shrine of Gujarat. Between the 6th and 13th centuries, Devadasis had a high rank and dignity in society and were exceptionally affluent, who were seen as the protectors of music and dance. During this period, royal patrons provided them with gifts of land, property and jewellery.

Devadasis in South India and the Chola empire (Devar Adigalar)
The Chola empire encouraged the devadasi system, In Tamil they are known as Devar Adigalar, ("Deva" being Sanskrit for "God" and "Adigalar" "Servants", i.e. "God's Servant"). Both male and female Devadasi were dedicated to the service of a temple and its god. They developed the system of music and dance employed during temple festivals.

Inscriptions reveal that 400 dancers, along with their gurus and orchestras, were maintained by the Brihadeesvarar temple, Thanjavur, with munificent grants, including the daily disbursement of oil, turmeric, betel leaves and nuts.

Nattuvanars were the male accompanists of the devadasi during her performance. They conducted the music orchestra while the devadasi performed her service. Inscriptions reveal that nattuvanars were used to teach the Chola princess Kuntavai a thousand years ago.

As the Chola empire expanded in wealth and size, they built more temples throughout their country. Soon other emperors started imitating the Chola empire and developed the system.

A community of Karnataka living in Andhra Pradesh, the Natavalollu are also known as Nattuvaru, Banajiga Natavollu, Bogam, Bhogam, Bogam Balija or Kalavanthulu.

Balijas at the census, 1901, were:—

Jakkulas, among whom it was, at Tenali in the Krishna district, formerly customary for each family to give up one girl for prostitution. Under the influence of social reform, a written agreement was a few years ago entered into to give up the practice.

Ādapāpa. Female attendants on the ladies of the families of Zamindars, who, as they are not allowed to marry, lead a life of prostitution. Their sons call themselves Balijas. In some places, e.g., the Krishna and Godāvari districts, this class is known as Khasa or Khasavandlu.

Sri Raja Venugopala Krishna Yachendralu Garu, unmarried, but had issue, two illegitimate sons by Saraswathamma, a dasi of the Balija community. He died on 20 June 1920.

Natavalollu /Kalawant A community of Andhra Pradesh, they are also referred to as Devadasi, Bogamvallu, Ganikulu and Sani and are distributed throughout the state. Kalavantulu means one who is engaged in art.

Mahari Devadasi of Odisha

Unlike in other parts of India, in the eastern state of Odisha the devadasis, also known colloquially as Mahari(s)of the Jagannath temple complex, were never sexually liberal, and have been expected to remain celibate from the time they became devadasis. However, they did have relationships and children, so this practice was obviously not strictly adhered to. It is said that the daughters of the Maharis of the Jagannath temple took to other professions such as nursing in the mid 20th century, because of the stigma attached to their inherent profession, which does suggest prostitution. Devadasi is a name given to a group of women who danced in the temple premises. The word devadasi or mahari means "those great women who can control natural human impulses, their five senses and can submit themselves completely to God (Vachaspati)." Mahari means Mohan Nari that is, the woman belonging to God. Sri Chaitanayadev had defined devadasis as 'Sebaets' who served God through dance and music. Pankaj Charan Das, the oldest Guru of Odissi classical dance, who comes from a Mahari family, explains Mahari as Maha Ripu -Ari (one who conquers the five main ripus - enemies).

The Orissa Gazette of 1956 lists nine devadasis and eleven temple musicians. By 1980, only four devadasis were left – Harapriya, Kokilprabha, Parashmani and Shashimani. By 1998, Only Shashimani and Parashmani were alive. The daily ritualistic dance had stopped long ago. This twosome served in a few of the yearly temple rituals like Nabakalebar, Nanda Utsav and Duar Paka during Bahuda Jatra.

The last of the devadasis, Shasshimani, died on 19 March 2015, at the age of 92.

Yellamma cult of Karnataka in South India

In the state of Karnataka in the region of South India the devadasi system was followed for over 10 centuries. Chief among them was the Yellamma cult.

There are many stories about the origin of the Yellamma cult. The most prevalent one says that Renuka was the daughter of a Brahmin, married to sage Jamadagni and was the mother of five sons. She used to bring water from the river Malaprabha for the sage's worship and rituals. One day while she was at the river, she saw a group of youths engaged themselves in water sports and forgot to return home in time which made Jamadagni to suspect her chastity. He ordered his sons one by one to punish their mother but four of them refused on one pretext or the other. The sage cursed them to become eunuchs and got her beheaded by his fifth son, Parashuram. To everybody's astonishment, Renuka's head multiplied by tens and hundreds and moved to different regions. This miracle made her four eunuch sons and others to become her followers, and worship her head.

Colonial era

Reformists and abolitionists

Reformists and abolitionists consider the devadasi a social evil, being prostitutes. The first anti-Nautch and anti-dedication movement was launched in 1882.

The portrayal of the devadasi system as "prostitution" sought to advertise the grotesqueness of the subject population for political ends, while the British colonial authorities officially maintained most brothels in India. For those who supported imperialism on the grounds of its "civilizing" function, programs of reform had ideological rewards.

Due to the devadasi being equated to prostitutes, they also became associated with the spreading of venereal disease Syphilis in India. During the British Colonial period, many British soldiers were exposed to venereal disease in the various brothels being operated at that time. As such, devadasis were misunderstood to be responsible for this. In efforts to control the spread of venereal disease, the British Government mandated that all prostitutes register themselves, with devadasis being forced to do this as well, as they were thought to be prostitutes by the British Government.

In addition to obligatory registration, the British Government also established institutions known as Lock Hospitals, where women were brought in order to be treated for venereal diseases. However, many of the women admitted to these hospitals, including many devadasi women, were identified through the registry and then brought to the hospitals against their will, with a number of these women never seen again by their families.

In 2011, Rationalist Debashis, the general secretary of Rationalists' and Humanists' Forum of India, filed complain and got four people, arrested who were involved in making devdasi in Yellamma Temple. Since then devdasi system in Yellamma temple had stopped.

Seetavva Jodatti of Belagavi district today helps victims find a foothold in society. At seven, she was a Devadasi. Thirty-six years later, she is a Padma Shri awardee. In 1997 she began a non-governmental organisation called MASS (Mahila Abhivrudhi-Samrakshana Sansthe) in Ghataprabha, Belagavi district to help women like her escape the clutches of the Devadasi system and live a life of dignity. And she can now proudly look back at the last two decades as her efforts during this time have helped bring over 4,800 Devadasis into mainstream society. Her efforts were recognised and Padmashri award given to her in 2018.


Rukmini Devi Arundale, a theosophist and trained in ballet, sought to reappropriate the devadasi dance traditions and bring them into a context which could be perceived as respectable. She did this by changing the dance repertoire to exclude pieces perceived as erotic in their description of a deity. She also systematized the dance in a way that incorporated the extension and use of space associated with dance traditions such as ballet. The product of this transformation was Bharatnatyam, which she then began to teach professionally at a school she established in Madras called Kalakshetra. Bharatnatyam is commonly propagated as a very ancient dance tradition associated with the Natyasastra. However, in reality, Bharatnatyam as it is performed and known today is a product of Arundale's endeavour to remove the devadasi dance tradition from the perceived immoral context of the devadasi community and bring it into the upper caste performance milieu.

Legislative initiatives

The first legal initiative to outlaw the devadasi system dates back to the 1934 Bombay Devadasi Protection Act. This act pertained to the Bombay province as it existed in the British Raj. The Bombay Devadasi Protection Act made dedication of women illegal, whether consensual or not.

In 1947, the year of independence, the Madras Devadasi (Prevention of Dedication) Act outlawed dedication in the southern Madras Presidency.

The devadasi system was outlawed in all of India in 1988, yet some devadasis still practice illegally.

Devadasi practices

From the late medieval period until 1910, the Pottukattu or tali-tying dedication ceremony, was a widely advertised community event requiring the full cooperation of the local religious authorities. It initiates a young girl into the devadasi profession and is performed in the temple by the priest. In the Brahminical tradition marriage is viewed as the only religious initiation (diksha) permissible to women. Thus the dedication is a symbolic "marriage" of the pubescent girl to the temple's deity.

In the sadanku or puberty ceremonies, the devadasi-initiate begins her marriage with an emblem of the god borrowed from the temple as a stand-in 'bridegroom'. From then onward, the devadasi is considered a nitya sumangali: a woman eternally free from the adversity of widowhood.

She would then perform her ritual and artistic duties in the temple. The puberty ceremonies were an occasion not only for temple honor, but also for community feasting and celebration in which the local elites also participated.


The Orissa Gazette of 1956 mentions some occasions where the devadasis danced. They had two daily rituals. The Bahar Gaaunis would dance at the Sakaala Dhupa. Lord Jagannath, after breakfast, would give Darshan to the bhaktas (the devotees). In the Main hall, a devadasi accompanied by musicians and the Rajguru, the court guru, would dance, standing near the Garuda sthambha (pillar). This dance could be watched by the audience. They would perform only pure dance here. The Bhitar Gaunis would sing at the Badashringhar, the main ceremony for ornamenting and dressing the God. Lord Jagannath, at bedtime, would be first served by male Sebaets- they would fan Him and decorate Him with flowers. After they would leave, a Bhitar Gaauni would then enter the room, stand near the door (Jaya Vijay) and sing Gita Govinda songs, and perhaps perform a ritualistic dance. After a while, she would come out and announce that the Lord has gone to sleep and then the guard would close the main gate.


Life after dedication
A devadasi's life after dedication was obviously very different centuries ago. Nowadays

After dedication of a girl to the temple, she has to take bath every day early in the morning and should present herself at the temple during morning worship of Yellamma. She is not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. But she will bow to the deity from outside. Thereafter she sweeps compound of the temple. Every Tuesday and Friday she goes for yoga along with senior jogatis (yoga teachers). During this period she learns innumerable songs in praise of Yellamma and her son Parashurama. If she shows some aptitude to learn playing instruments she will be given training by her elder jogatis. In Yellampura and other villages Devadasis do not dance but this is performed by eunuch companions. The main functions of Devadasis would be singing and playing stringed musical instruments and Jagate. They form a small group and go for joga, from house to house on every Tuesday and Friday (Jogan Shankar, 1990).

Social status

Traditionally, no stigma was attached to the devadasi or to her children, and other members of their caste received them on terms of equality. The children of a devadasi were considered legitimate and devadasis themselves were outwardly indistinguishable from married women of their own community.

Furthermore, a devadasi was believed to be immune from widowhood and was called akhanda saubhagyavati ("woman never separated from good fortune"). Since she was wedded to a divine deity, she was supposed to be one of the especially welcome guests at weddings and was regarded as a bearer of good fortune. At weddings, people would receive a string of the tali (wedding lock) prepared by her, threaded with a few beads from her own necklace. The presence of a devadasi on any religious occasion in the house of an upper caste member was regarded as sacred and she was treated with due respect and was presented with gifts.

Contemporary statistical data

India's National Commission for Women, which is mandated to protect and promote the welfare of women, has collected information on the prevalence of devadasis in various states. The government of Odisha has stated that the devadasi system is not prevalent in the state. There is only one Devadasi in Odisha, in a Puri temple. In March, a newspaper report said that the last devadasi, Sashimoni, attached to Jagannath temple had died, bringing the curtain down on the institution.

Similarly the government of Tamil Nadu wrote that this system has been eradicated and there are now no devadasis in the state. Andhra Pradesh has identified 16,624 devadasis within its state and Karnataka has identified 22,941. The government of Maharashtra did not provide the information as sought by the Commission. However, the state government provided statistical data regarding the survey conducted by them to sanction a "Devadasi Maintenance Allowance". A total of 8,793 applications were received and after conducting a survey 6,314 were rejected and 2,479 devadasis were declared eligible for the allowance. At the time of sending the information, 1,432 Devadasis were receiving this allowance.

According to a study by the Joint Women’s Programme of the Bangalore for National Commission for Women, girls who have to accept becoming a devadasi, few reasons were provided, which included dumbness, deafness, poverty, and others. The life expectancy of devadasi girls is low compared to the average of the country, it is rare to find devadasis older than fifty.

In popular culture

"The Last Great Devadasi", Bharatanatyam dancer Balasaraswati's story, as told by her son-in-law, appeared in the book Balasaraswati: Her Art & Life.

A dance performance of Balasaraswati was documented by Satyajit Ray in the 1976 film Bala. The film was jointly produced by National Centre for the Performing Arts and Government of Tamil Nadu. The thirty-three-minute documentary features the life and some of the works by Balasaraswati in the form of narration and dance.

In 1984, TS Ranga made a Hindi film, Giddh, based on the theme of exploitation of young girls in the name of the Devadasi tradition with the film's story set in a village on the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. It starred Smita Patil and Om Puri in the lead roles.

In 1987, another Hindi movie, Mahananda, produced and directed by Mohan Kavia, portrays life of a Devadasi in a coastal village in Maharashtra.

In 1999, a Tamil serial by the name of Krishnadasi was aired in SunTV. It had Gemini Ganesan, a popular movie actor in a prominent role.

In 2002–2003, a Tamil serial titled Rudra Veenai showcased the devadasi system in 1702–1703 to 2003 in Tanjore/Tanjavour district of Tamil Nadu, in a short descriptive way. An important role was held by a devadasi character in the series.

In 2011, the director Beeban Kidron made a documentary about devadasis called "Sex, Death and the Gods" as part of BBC Storyville series in 2011.

In 2012 VICE Guide to Travel produced a controversial documentary Prostitutes of God, which has been criticized for its portrayal of devadasi sex workers.

In 2016, a show named Krishnadasi started airing on Colors TV which is based on the lives of devdasis married to lord krishna.

Child prostitution
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia .

Prostitution of children

Statue of a young 19th-century prostituted child
The White Slave by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle (1878–1942)

Areas practiced Worldwide
Number affected Up to 10 million

Legal status Illegal under international law and national laws

Child prostitution is prostitution involving a child, and it is a form of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The term normally refers to prostitution of a minor, or person under the legal age of consent. In most jurisdictions, child prostitution is illegal as part of general prohibition on prostitution.

Child prostitution usually manifests in the form of sex trafficking, in which a child is kidnapped or duped into becoming involved in the sex trade, or "survival sex", in which the child engages in sexual activities to procure basic essentials such as food and shelter. Prostitution of children is commonly associated with child pornography, and they often overlap. Some people travel to foreign countries to engage in child sex tourism. Research suggests that there may be as many as 10 million children involved in prostitution worldwide. The problem is most severe in South America and Asia, but prostitution of children exists globally, in undeveloped countries as well as developed. Most of the children involved with prostitution are girls, despite an increase in the number of young boys in the trade.

The United Nations has declared the prostitution of children to be illegal under international law, and various campaigns and organizations have been created to protest its existence.

"Most of the victimized children who face prostitution are vulnerable children who are exploited. Many predators target runaways, sexual assault victims, and children who have been harshly neglected by their biological parents. Not only have they faced traumatic violence that affects their physical being, but become intertwined into the violent life of prostitution." – U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole.


Several definitions have been proposed for prostitution of children. The United Nations defines it as "the act of engaging or offering the services of a child to perform sexual acts for money or other consideration with that person or any other person". The Convention on the Rights of the Child's Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography defines the practice as "the act of obtaining, procuring or offering the services of a child or inducing a child to perform sexual acts for any form of compensation or reward". Both emphasize that the child is a victim of exploitation, even if apparent consent is given. The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999, (Convention No 182) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) describes it as the "use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution".

According to the International Labour Office in Geneva, prostitution of children and child pornography are two primary forms of child sexual exploitation, which often overlap. The former is sometimes used to describe the wider concept of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). It excludes other identifiable manifestations of CSEC, such as commercial sexual exploitation through child marriage, domestic child labor, and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

The terminology applied to the practice is a subject of dispute. The United States Department of Justice states, "The term itself implies the idea of choice, when in fact that is not the case." Groups that oppose the practice believe that the terms "child prostitution" and "child prostitute" carry problematic connotations because children are generally not expected to be able to make informed decisions about prostitution. As an alternative, they use the terms "prostituted children" and "the commercial sexual exploitation of children". Other groups use the term "child sex worker" to imply that the children are not always "passive victims".

Causes and types

Children are often forced by social structures and individual agents into situations in which adults take advantage of their vulnerability and sexually exploit and abuse them by selling them or selling their bodies. Structure and agency commonly combine to force a child into commercial sex: for example, the prostitution of a child frequently follows from prior sexual abuse, often in the child's home. Many believe that the majority of prostituted children are from Southeast Asia and the majority of their clients are Western sex tourists, but sociologist Louise Brown argues that, while Westerners contribute to the growth of the industry, most of the children's customers are Asian locals.

Prostitution of children usually occurs in environments such as brothels, bars and clubs, homes, or particular streets and areas (usually in socially run down places). According to one study, only about 10% of prostituted children have a pimp and over 45% entered the business through friends. Maureen Jaffe and Sonia Rosen from the International Child Labor Study Office write that cases vary widely: "Some victims are runaways from home or State institutions, others are sold by their parents or forced or tricked into prostitution, and others are street children. Some are amateurs and others professionals. Although one tends to think first and foremost of young girls in the trade, there is an increase in the number of young boys involved in prostitution. The most disquieting cases are those children who are forced into the trade and then incarcerated. These children run the possible further risk of torture and subsequent death."

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as "the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation". The UNODC approximates the number of victims worldwide to be around 2.5 million. UNICEF reports that since 1982 about 30 million children have been trafficked. Trafficking for sexual slavery accounts for 79% of cases, with the majority of victims being female, of which an estimated 20% are children. Women are also often perpetrators as well.

In 2007 the UN founded United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). In cooperation with UNICEF, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) the United Nations took a grant from the United Arab Emirates to establish UN.GIFT. UN.GIFT aims to fight human trafficking through a mutual support from its stakeholders which includes governments, businesses, and other large global actors. Their first initiative is to spread the word that human trafficking is immoral and has become a growing problem that it will take a global cooperation to cease its continuation. UN.GIFT strives to lower the demand for this exploitation and create a safe environment for potential victims.

In some cases, victims of sex trafficking are kidnapped by strangers, either by force or by being tricked into becoming involved through lies and false promises. In other cases, the children's families allow or force them to enter the industry as a result of severe poverty. In cases where they are taken out of the country, traffickers prey on the fact that the children are often unable to understand the language of their new location and are unaware of their legal rights.

Research indicates that traffickers have a preference for females age 12 and under because young children are more easily molded into the role assigned to them and because they are assumed to be virgins, which is valuable to consumers. The girls are then made to appear older, and documents are forged as protection against law enforcement. Victims tend to share similar backgrounds, often coming from communities with high crime rates and lack of access to education. However, victimology is not limited to this, and males and females coming from various backgrounds have become involved in sex trafficking.

Psychotherapist Mary De Chesnay identifies five stages in the process of sex trafficking: vulnerability, recruitment, transportation, exploitation, and liberation. The final stage, De Chesnay writes, is rarely completed. Murder and accidental death rates are high, as are suicides, and very few trafficking victims are rescued or escape.

Sex trafficking is a lucrative business due to the low risk and high demand for its existence. The return of high profits acts as a primary incentive driving the spread of human trafficking. Today, most markets are operated online disguised as salon parlors making it harder to enforce sex trafficking laws. Examples are online escort services, residential brothels, brothels disguised as massage businesses or spas, many of which enslave children to their services.

Survival sex

The other primary form of prostitution of children is "survival sex". The US Department of Justice states:

"Survival sex" occurs when a child engages in sex acts in order to obtain money, food, shelter, clothing, or other items needed in order to survive. In these situations, the transaction typically only involves the child and the customer; children engaged in survival sex are usually not controlled or directed by pimps, madams, or other traffickers. Any individual who pays for sex with a child, whether the child is controlled by a pimp or is engaged in survival sex, can be prosecuted.

A study commissioned by UNICEF and Save the Children and headed by sociologist Annjanette Rosga conducted research on prostitution of children in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. Rosga reported that poverty was a strong contributing factor. She stated, "The global sex trade is as much a product of everyday people struggling to survive in dire economic straits as it is an organized crime problem. Attacking the crime and not the poverty is treating the symptom but not the disease...It's not uncommon for girls to know what they're entering into, and to enter voluntarily to some degree. Maybe they think they'll be different and able to escape, or maybe they'd rather take the risk than feel powerless staying at home in poverty." Jaffe and Rosen disagree and argue that poverty alone does not often force children into prostitution, as it does not exist in a large scale in several impoverished societies. Rather, a number of external influences, such as poor family situations and domestic violence, factor into the problem.

Prostitution of children in the form of survival sex occurs in both undeveloped and developed countries. In Asia, underage girls sometimes work in brothels to support their families. In Sri Lanka, parents will more often have their sons prostitute themselves rather than their daughters, as the society places more weight on sexual purity among females than males. Jaffe and Rosen write that prostitution of children in North America often results from "economic considerations, domestic violence and abuse, family disintegration and drug addiction". In Canada, a young man was convicted of charges relating to the prostitution of a 15-year-old girl online in 2012; he had encouraged her to prostitute herself as a means of making money, kept all of her earnings, and threatened her with violence if she did not continue.


Treatment of prostituted children

Prostituted children are often forced to work in hazardous environments without proper hygiene. They face threats of violence and are sometimes raped and beaten. Researchers Robin E. Clark, Judith Freeman Clark, and Christine A. Adamec write that they "suffer a great deal of abuse, unhappiness, and poor health" in general. For example, Derrick Jensen reports that female sex trafficking victims from Nepal are "'broken in' through a process of rapes and beatings, and then rented out up to thirty-five times per night for one to two dollars per man". Another example involved mostly Nepalese boys who were lured to India and sold to brothels in Mumbai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Lucknow, and Gorakhpur. One victim left Nepal at the age of 14 and was sold into slavery, locked up, beaten, starved, and forcibly circumcised. He reported that he was held in a brothel with 40 to 50 other boys, many of whom were castrated, before escaping and returning to Nepal.

Criminologist Ronald Flowers writes that prostitution of children and child pornography are closely linked; up to one in three prostituted children have been involved in pornography, often through films or literature. Runaway teenagers, he states, are frequently used for "porn flicks" and photographs. In addition to pornography, Flowers writes that, "Children caught up in this dual world of sexual exploitation are often victims of sexual assaults, sexual perversions, sexually transmitted diseases, and inescapable memories of sexual misuse and bodies that have been compromised, brutalized, and left forever tarnished."

Physical and psychological effects

According to Humanium, an NGO that opposes the prostitution of children, the practice causes injuries such as "vaginal tearing, physical after-effects of torture, pain, infection, or unwanted pregnancy". As clients seldom take precautions against the spread of HIV, prostituted children face a high risk of contracting the disease, and the majority of them in certain locations contract it. Other sexually transmitted diseases pose a threat as well, such as syphilis and herpes. High levels of tuberculosis have also been found among prostituted children. These illnesses are often fatal.

Former prostituted children often deal with psychological trauma, including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other psychological effects include anger, insomnia, sexual and personality confusion, inability to trust adults, and loss of confidence. Drug-related health problems included dental problems, hepatitis B and C, and serious liver and kidney problems. Other medical complications included reproductive problems and injuries from sexual assaults; physical and neurological problems from violent physical attacks; and other general health issues including respiratory problems and joint pains.


An FBI agent leading away an adult suspect arrested in the Operation Cross Country II, when 105 children were rescued from forced prostitution in October 2008

Prostitution of children is illegal under international law, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 34, states, "the State shall protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse, including prostitution and involvement in pornography." The convention was first held in 1989 and has been ratified by 193 countries. In 1990, the United Nations appointed a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Over at least the last decade, the international community has increasingly acknowledged the importance of addressing problems posed by the trafficking of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; activities that undermine the rights of children and are frequently linked to organized crime. While the legality of adult prostitution varies between different parts of the world, the prostitution of minors is illegal in most countries, and all countries have some form of restrictions against it.

There is a dispute surrounding what constitutes a prostituted child. International law defines a child as any individual below the age of 18, but a number of countries legally recognize lower ages of consent and adulthood, usually ranging from 13 to 17 years of age. Thus, law enforcement officers are sometimes hesitant to investigate cases because of the differences in age of consent The laws of some countries do, however, distinguish between prostituted teenagers and prostituted children. For example, the Japanese government defines the category as referring to minors between 13 and 18.

Consequences for offenders vary from country to country. In the People's Republic of China, all forms of prostitution are illegal, but having sexual contact with anyone under the age of 14, regardless of consent, will result in a more serious punishment than raping an adult. In the United States, the legal penalty for participating in the prostitution of children includes five to twenty years in prison. The FBI established "Innocence Lost", a new department working to free children from prostitution, in response to the strong public reaction across the country to the news of Operation Stormy Nights, in which 23 minors were released from forced prostitution.


Prostitution of children exists in every country, though the problem is most severe in South America and Asia. The number of prostituted children is rising in other parts of the world, including North America, Africa, and Europe. Exact statistics are difficult to obtain, but it is estimated that there are around 10 million children involved in prostitution worldwide.

Note: this is a list of examples; it does not cover every country where child prostitution exists.

Country/location Number of children involved in prostitution Notes

Worldwide Up to 10,000,000

Australia 4,000

Bangladesh 10,000 – 29,000

Brazil 250,000 – 500,000 Brazil is considered to have the worst levels of child sex trafficking after Thailand.

Cambodia 30,000

Chile 3,700 The number of children involved in prostitution is believed to be on the decline.

Colombia 35,000 Between 5,000 and 10,000 are on the streets of Bogotá.

Dominican Republic 30,000

Ecuador 5,200

Estonia 1,200

Greece 2,900 Over 200 are believed to be below the age of 12.

Hungary 500

India 1,200,000 In India, children account for 40% of people engaged in prostitution.

Indonesia 40,000 – 70,000 UNICEF states that 30% of the females in prostitution are below 18.

Malaysia 43,000 – 142,000

Mexico 16,000 – 20,000 Out of Mexico City’s 13,000 street children, 95% have already had at least one sexual encounter with an adult (many of them through prostitution).

Nepal 200,000

New Zealand 210

Peru 500,000

Philippines 60,000 – 100,000

Sri Lanka 40,000 UNICEF states that 30% of the females in prostitution are below 18.

Taiwan 100,000

Thailand 200,000 – 800,000

United States 100,000

Zambia 70,000

By 1999, it was reported that in Argentina prostitution of children was increasing at an alarming rate and that the average age was decreasing. The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) fact book says Argentina is one of the favored destinations of pedophile sex tourists from Europe and the United States. Argentina's Criminal Code criminalizes the prostitution of minors of eighteen years of age or younger, but it only sanctions those who "promote or facilitate" prostitution, not the client who exploits the minor.

Public perception

Anthropologist Heather Montgomery writes that society has a largely negative perception of prostitution of children, in part because the children are often viewed as having been abandoned or sold by their parents and families. The International Labour Organization includes the prostitution of children in its list of the "worst forms of child labour". At the 1996 World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children it was called "a crime against humanity", "torture", and "slavery". Virginia Kendall, a district judge and expert on child exploitation and human trafficking, and T. Markus Funk, an attorney and law professor, write that the subject is an emotional one and that there are various perspectives about its prevention:

The topic of proscribing and punishing child exploitation triggers intense emotions. While there is general consensus that child sexual exploitation, whether through the Internet, forced prostitution, the international or domestic trafficking of children for sex, or molestation, is on the rise, observers in the United States and elsewhere find little common ground on the questions of how serious such conduct is, or what, if anything, must be done to address it.

Investigative journalist Julian Sher states that widespread stereotypes about the prostitution of children continued into the 1990s, when the first organized opposition arose and police officers began working to dispel common misconceptions. Criminologist Roger Matthews writes that concerns over pedophilia and child sexual abuse, as well as shifting perceptions of youth, led the public to see a sharp difference between prostitution of children and adult prostitution. While the latter is generally frowned upon, the former is seen as intolerable. Additionally, he states, children are increasingly viewed as "innocent" and "pure" and their prostitution as paramount to slavery. Through the shift in attitude, the public began to see minors involved in the sex trade as victims rather than as perpetrators of a crime, needing rehabilitation rather than punishment.


Though campaigns against prostitution of children originated in the 1800s, the first mass protests against the practice occurred in the 1990s in the United States, led largely by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism). The group, which historian Junius P. Rodriguez describes as "the most significant of the campaigning groups against child prostitution", originally focused on the issue of children being exploited in Southeast Asia by Western tourists. Women's rights groups and anti-tourism groups joined to protest the practice of sex tourism in Bangkok, Thailand. The opposition to sex tourism was spurred on by an image of a Thai youth in prostitution, published in Time and by the publication of a dictionary in the United Kingdom describing Bangkok as "a place where there are a lot of prostitutes". Cultural anthropologists Susan Dewey and Patty Kelly write that though they were unable to inhibit sex tourism and rates of prostitution of children continued to rise, the groups "galvanized public opinion nationally and internationally" and succeeded in getting the media to cover the topic extensively for the first time. ECPAT later expanded its focus to protest child prostitution globally.

The late 1990s and early 2000s also saw the creation of a number of shelters and rehabilitation programs for prostituted children, and the police began to actively investigate the issue. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) was later established by the Polaris Project as a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. Operated by Polaris Project, the hotline was designed to allow callers to report tips and receive information on human trafficking.

The opposition to prostitution of children and sexual slavery spread to Europe and elsewhere, and organizations pushed for prostituted children to be recognized as victims rather than offenders. The issue remained prominent in the following years, and various campaigns and organizations continued into the 2000s and 2010s.


William Thomas Stead in 1881.

Prostitution of children dates to antiquity. Prepubescent boys were commonly prostituted in brothels in ancient Greece and Rome. According to Ronald Flowers, the "most beautiful and highest born Egyptian maidens were forced into prostitution...and they continued as prostitutes until their first menstruation." Chinese and Indian children were commonly sold by their parents into prostitution. Parents in India sometimes dedicated their female children to the Hindu temples, where they became "devadasis". Traditionally a high status in society, the devadasis were originally tasked with maintaining and cleaning the temples of the Hindu deity to which they were assigned (usually the goddess Renuka) and learning skills such as music and dancing. However, as the system evolved, their role became that of a temple prostitute, and the girls, who were "dedicated" before puberty, were required to prostitute themselves to upper class men. The practice has since been outlawed but still exists.

In Europe, child prostitution flourished until the late 1800s; minors accounted for 50% of individuals involved in prostitution in Paris. A scandal in 19th-century England caused the government there to raise the age of consent. In July 1885, William Thomas Stead, editor of The Pall Mall Gazette, published "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon", four articles describing an extensive underground sex trafficking ring that reportedly sold children to adults. Stead's reports focused on a 13-year-old girl, Eliza Armstrong, who was sold for £5 (the equivalent of around £500 in 2012), then taken to a midwife to have her virginity verified. The age of consent was raised from 13 to 16 within a week of publication. During this period, the term white slavery came to be used throughout Europe and the United States to describe prostituted children.

The Bible and slavery
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

11th-century manuscript of the Hebrew Bible with Targum, Exodus 12:25-31

Frank's casket is an 8th-century whale bone casket, the back of which depicts the enslavement of the Jewish people

The Biblical texts outline sources and legal status of slaves, economic roles of slavery, types of slavery, and debt slavery, which thoroughly explain the institution of slavery in Israel in antiquity. Each section – Exodus 21, Deuteronomy 15, and Leviticus 25 – provides an outlook into the understanding of recent slave relations and gives guidance to the Israelites on how to further their life in a proper manual. Philo, one of the philosophers of the time, wrote texts on how to properly treat slaves, indicating that slavery was an important part of Jewish life, but also emphasizes the humanitarian perspective offered up by many Ancient Near East scholars. One such way of showing this was through the sharing of products, such as food and cloth, with other, underprivileged members of society.

The Bible contains several references to slavery, which was a common practice in antiquity. The Bible stipulates the treatment of slaves, especially in the Old Testament. There are also references to slavery in the New Testament. Israelite slaves were to be offered release after six to seven years of service, except when the male Israelite slave chose to remain with his wife; the male slave, the female slave and all children would consequently endure bond-slavery throughout their lives.A foreign slave could be bequeathed to the owner's family, and be made to serve for the life of the slave, except in the case of certain injuries. Many of the patriarchs portrayed in the Bible were owners of slaves from the upper echelons of society and enslaved those in debt to them, bought their fellow citizen’s daughters as concubines, and perpetually enslaved foreign men to work on their fields. Most of the owners of these slaves were men, and it is not evident that women were able to own slaves until the Elephantine papyri in the 400s BC. There is also little historic evidence that points scholars towards the understanding that people from all levels of society were able to own slaves. During certain reigns, especially those of Solomon and David, statewide slavery may have been instituted for large building projects or work that was deemed intolerable for free men to do. Other than these instances, it is unclear whether or not state instituted slavery was an accepted practice. It was necessary for those who owned slaves, especially in large numbers, to be wealthy because the masters had to pay taxes for Jewish and non-Jewish slaves because they were considered part of the family unit. The slaves were seen as an important part of the family’s reputation, especially in Hellenistic and Roman times where the slave companions for a woman were seen as a manifestation and protection of a woman’s honor. As time progressed, domestic slavery became more prominent, and domestic slaves, usually working as an assistant to the wife of the patriarch, allowed larger houses to run more smoothly and efficiently.

The Bible was cited as justification for slavery by defenders. Abolitionists have also used texts from both the Old and New Testaments to argue for the manumission of slaves, and against kidnapping or "stealing men" to own or sell them as slaves.

Slaves had a variety of different purposes. To determine the function, many scholars look at repetitive descriptions in texts that were written around the same time and reports of other cultures from the well-documented Graeco-Roman culture. One of slaves’ main functions was as status symbols for the upper members of society, especially when it came to dowries for their daughters. These slaves could be sold or given away as needed, but also showed that the family was capable of providing generous amounts for their daughters to be married off. They also catered to the needs of the temple and had more domestic abilities such as keeping up the household and raising farm animals and small amounts of crops. Masters often took advantage of their slaves being at their beck and call by requiring them to perform duties in public that the master had the ability to do himself. This showed a level of luxury which extended beyond the private sphere into the public. In addition to showing luxury, possession of slaves was necessary for a good family background, and many wealthy men viewed their colleagues who possessed only few slaves as the type of individual who needed to be pitied.

The rabbis are rarely described as having many slaves, but in the documents they write about slaves, it is always from the master’s point of view, which is seen by scholars as an attempt to distinguish the middle class citizens from slaves who could possibly have held higher positions in society because they were owned by a wealthy man. However, owning many slaves was regular among priests in the First Temple days. This was an especially common practice in Greek religion which was supported by references to high priestly slaves in Josephus’ works. These works painted the priests in a negative light, and showed the end of the institution coming after the Second Temple days in 70 AD.


In the Ancient Near East, captives obtained through warfare were often compelled to become slaves, and this was seen by the Deuteronomic Code as a legitimate form of enslavement, as long as Israelites were not among the victims; the Deuteronomic Code institutes the death penalty for the crime of kidnapping men to enslave them.Deuteronomy 24:7</ref> If the soldier desired to marry a captured foreigner, there were stipulations. She would shave her head and wear no jewelry or cosmetics to mourn the friends and family whom were killed in the war. While the term may be different depending on how many were lost, it would be for a minimum of one month. After the grieving was over, then he was free to make wedding plans. If he wished to end the relationship, the code stipulated he must free her. Because he forced her by the point of the sword or tip of the spear into a sexual relationship, he forfeited the option to sell her into slavery. The Israelites did not generally get involved in distant or large-scale wars, and apparently capture was not a significant source of slaves.

The Holiness code of Leviticus explicitly allows participation in the slave trade, with non-Israelite residents who had been sold into slavery being regarded as a type of property that could be inherited. Foreign residents were included in this permission, and were allowed to own Israelite slaves.

It was also possible to be born into slavery. If a male Israelite slave had been given a wife by his owner, then the wife and any children which had resulted from the union would remain the property of his former owner, according to the Covenant Code. Although no nationality is specified, 18th century theologians John Gill (1697–1771) and Adam Clarke suggested this referred only to Canaanite concubines.

Debt slavery

Like that of the Ancient Near East, the legal systems of the Israelites divided slaves into different categories: "In determining who should benefit from their intervention, the legal systems drew two important distinctions: between debt and chattel slaves, and between native and foreign slaves. The authorities intervened first and foremost to protect the former category of each--citizens who had fallen on hard times and had been forced into slavery by debt or famine."

Poverty, and more general lack of economic security, compelled some people to enter debt bondage. In the ancient Near East, wives and (non-adult) children were often viewed as property and were sometimes sold into slavery by the husband or father for financial reasons. Evidence of this viewpoint is found in the Code of Hammurabi, which permits debtors to sell their wives and children into temporary slavery, lasting a maximum of three years. The Holiness code also exhibits this, allowing foreign residents to sell their own children and families to Israelites, although no limitation is placed on the duration of such slavery. Biblical authors repeatedly criticize debt slavery, which could be attributed to high taxation, monopoly of resources, high-interest loans, and collapse of higher kinship groups.

Debt slaves were one of the two categories of slaves in Ancient Jewish society. Like the name implies, these individuals sold themselves into slavery in order to pay off debts they may have accrued. These individuals were not permanently in this situation and were usually released after six to seven years. Chattel slaves, on the other hand, were less common and were usually prisoners of war who retained no individual right of redemption. These chattel slaves engaged in full-time menial labor, often in a domestic capacity.

The earlier Covenant Code instructs that, if a thief is caught after sunrise and is unable to make restitution for the theft, then the thief should be enslaved. Children of a deceased debtor may be forced into slavery to pay off outstanding debts. Similarly, it is evident that debtors could be forced to sell their children into slavery to pay the creditors.

Sexual and conjugal slavery

There were two words used for female slaves, which were amah and shifhah. Based upon the uses in different texts, the words appear to have the same connotations and are used synonymously, namely that of being a sexual object, though the words themselves appear to be from different ethnic origins. Men assigned their female slaves the same level of dependence as they would a wife. Close levels of relationships could occur given the amount of dependence placed upon these women. These slaves had two specific roles: a sexual use and companionship. Their reproductive capacities were valued within their roles within the family. Marriage with these slaves was not unheard of or prohibited. In fact, it was a man’s concubine that was seen as the “other” and shunned from the family structure. These female slaves were treated more like women than slaves which may have resulted, according to some scholars, due to their sexual role, which was particularly to “breed” more slaves. A father could sell his daughter into this life and she could be released within six years if she was not claimed by or assigned to another man.

Sexual slavery, or being sold to be a wife, was common in the ancient world. Throughout the Old Testament, the taking of multiple wives is recorded many times. An Israelite father could sell his unmarried daughters into servitude, with the expectation or understanding that the master or his son could eventually marry her (as in Exodus 21:7-11.) It is understood by Jewish and Christian commentators that this referred to the sale of a daughter, who "is not arrived to the age of twelve years and a day, and this through poverty."

And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

— Exodus 21

The code also instructs that the woman was to be allowed to be redeemed if the man broke his betrothal to her. If a female slave was betrothed to the master's son, then she had to be treated as a normal daughter. If he took another wife, then he was required to continue supplying the same amounts of food, clothing, and conjugal rights to her. The code states that failure to comply with these regulations would automatically grant free manumission to the enslaved woman, while all Israelite slaves were to be treated as hired servants.

The betrothal clause seems to have provided an exception to the law of release in Deuteronomy 15:12 (cf. Jeremiah 34:14), in which both male and female Israelite servants were to be given release in the seventh year.

The penalty if an Israelite engaged in sexual activity with an unredeemed female slave who was betrothed was that of scourging, with Jewish tradition seeing this as only referring to the slave, (versus Deuteronomy 22:22, where both parties were stoned, being free persons), as well as the man confessing his guilt and the priest making atonement for his sin.

Women captured by Israelite armies could be adopted as wives, but first they had to have their heads shaved and undergo a period of mourning. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14) However, "If you are not pleased with her, then you must let her go where she pleases. You cannot in any case sell her; you must not take advantage of her, since you have already humiliated her."


In a parallel with the shmita system the Covenant Code offers automatic manumission of male Israelite slaves after they have worked for six years; this excludes non-Israelite slaves, and specifically excludes Israelite daughters, who were sold into slavery by their fathers, from such automatic seventh-year manumission. Such were bought to be betrothed to the owner, or his son, and if that had not been done, they were to be allowed to be redeemed. If the marriage took place, they were to be set free if her husband was negligent in his basic marital obligations. The later Deuteronomic Code is seen by some to contradict elements of this instruction, in extending automatic seventh year manumission to both sexes. Others see the latter as a general decree, with the aspect of female manumission not being applicable within the specific circumstances of the former case, with marriage taking the place of manumission.

The Deuteronomic Code also extends the seventh-year manumission rule by instructing that Israelite slaves freed in this way should be given livestock, grain, and wine, as a parting gift; the literal meaning of the verb used, at this point in the text, for giving this gift seems to be hang round the neck. In Jewish tradition, the identified gifts were regarded as merely symbolic, representing a gift of produce rather than of money or clothing; many Jewish scholars estimated that the value of the three listed products was about 30 shekels, so the gift gradually came to be standardised as produce worth this fixed value. The Bible states that one should not regret the gift, for slaves were only half as expensive as hired workers; Nachmanides enumerates this as a command rather than merely as a piece of advice.

Despite these commandments, Israelite slaves were kept longer than permitted, compelling Yahweh to destroy the Kingdom of Judah as punishment. The text also describes Jeremiah demanding that Zedekiah manumit all Israelite slaves. The Holiness Code does not mention seventh-year manumission; instead it only instructs that debt-slaves, and Israelite slaves owned by foreign residents, should be freed during the national Jubilee (occurring either every 49 or every 50 years, depending on interpretation).

While many commentators see the Holiness Code regulations as supplementing the prior legislation mandating manumission in the seventh year, the otherwise potentially long wait until the Jubilee was somewhat alleviated by the Holiness Code, with the instruction that slaves should be allowed to buy their freedom by paying an amount equal to the total wages of a hired servant over the entire period remaining until the next Jubilee (this could be up to 49 years-worth of wages; in 2017, this would roughly equate with £922,500 sterling). Blood relatives of the slave were also allowed to buy the slave's freedom, and this became regarded as a duty to be carried out by the next of kin (Hebrew: Go'el).

Permanent enslavement

As for Israelite slaves, the Covenant Code allows them to voluntarily renounce their seventh-year manumission and become permanent slaves (literally being slaves forever). The Covenant Code rules require that the slaves confirmed this desire at either a religious sanctuary, or in the presence of the household gods (the Masoretic Text and Septuagint both literally say [at] the gods, although a few English translations substitute in the presence of Judges); having done this, slaves were then to have an awl driven through their ear into a doorpost by their master. This ritual was common throughout the Ancient Near East, being practiced by Mesopotamians, Lydians, and Arabs; in the Semitic world, the ear symbolised obedience (much as the heart symbolises emotion, in the modern western world), and a pierced earlobe signified servitude.

Working conditions

The Ethical Decalogue makes clear that honouring the Shabbat was expected of slaves, not just their masters. The later Deuteronomic code, having repeated the Shabbat requirement, also instructs that slaves should be allowed to celebrate the Sukkot festival.

Although the Holiness Code instructs that during the Sabbatical Year, slaves and their masters should eat food which the land yields, without being farmed, it does not explicitly forbid the slaves from the farming itself, despite restricting their masters from doing so, and neither does it grant slaves any other additional rest from work during these years.

Indeed, unlike the other law codes, the Holiness Code does not mention explicit occasions of respite from toil, instead simply giving the vague instruction that Israelite slaves should not to be compelled to work with rigour; Maimonides argues that this was to be interpreted as forbidding open-ended work (such as keep doing that until I come back), and that disciplinary action was not to include instructing the slave to perform otherwise pointless work.

A special case is that of the debtor who sells himself as a slave to his creditor; the Holiness Code instructs that in this situation, the debtor must not be made to do the work of slaves, but must instead be treated the same as a hired servant. In Jewish tradition, this was taken to mean that the debtor should not be instructed to do humiliating work - which only slaves would do - and that the debtor should be asked to perform the craft(s) which they usually did before they had been enslaved, if it is realistic to do so.

Injury and compensation

The earlier Covenant Code provides a potentially more valuable and direct form of relief, namely a degree of protection for the slave's person (their body and its health) itself. This codification extends the basic lex talionis (....eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth...), to compel that when slaves are significantly injured by their masters, manumission is to be the compensation given; the canonical examples mentioned are the knocking out of an eye or a tooth. This resembles the earlier Code of Hammurabi, which instructs that when an injury is done to a social inferior, monetary compensation should be made, instead of carrying out the basic lex talionis; Josephus indicates that by his time it was acceptable for a fine to be paid to the slave, instead of manumitting them, if the slave agreed. Nachmanides argued that it was a biblically commanded duty to liberate a slave who had been harmed in this way

The Hittite laws and the Code of Hammurabi both insist that if a slave is harmed by a 3rd party, the 3rd party must financially compensate the owner. In the Covenant Code, if an ox gores a slave, the ox owner must pay the servant's master a 30 shekel fine.

The murder of slaves by owners was prohibited in the Law covenant. The Covenant Code clearly institutes the death penalty for beating a free man to death; in contrast, beating a slave to death was to be avenged only if the slave does not survive for one or two days after the beating. Abraham ben Nathan of Lunel, a 12th-century Provençal scholar, Targum, and Maimonides argue that avenged implies the death penalty, but more recent scholars view it as probably describing a lesser punishment. A number of modern Protestant Bible versions (such as the New Living Translation, New International Version and New Century Version) translate the survival for one or two days as referring to a full and speedy recovery, rather than to a lingering death, as favoured by other recent versions (such as the New Revised Standard Version, and New American Bible).

Fugitive slaves
The Deuteronomic Code forbids the people of Israel from handing over fugitive slaves to their masters or oppressing them, and instructs that these fugitives should be allowed to reside where they wish. Although a literal reading would indicate that this applies to slaves of all nationalities and locations, the Mishnah and many commentators consider the rule to have the much narrower application, to just those slaves who flee from outside Israelite territory into it.

Slavery in the New Testament
Slavery is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. For example in the Epistle to the Ephesians 6:5 contains the following:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

The Epistle to Philemon has become an important text in regard to slavery; it was used by pro-slavery advocates as well as by abolitionists. In the epistle, Paul writes that he is returning Onesimus, a fugitive slave, back to his master, Philemon; however, Paul also entreats Philemon to regard Onesimus, who he says he views as a son, not as a slave but as a beloved brother in Christ. Philemon is requested to treat Onesimus as he would treat Paul.

Paul condemns slave traders directly in 1 Timothy.

Kanjirottu Yakshi
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kanjirottu Yakshi (Chiruthevi) is a folkloric vampire. According to the myth, she was born into an affluent Padamangalam Nair tharavad by name Mangalathu at Kanjiracode in Southern Travancore (now in Tamil Nadu). Being a ravishingly beautiful courtesan she had an intimate relationship with Raman Thampi, son of King Rama Varma and rival of Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma. According to the story, she was murdered by her servant and she turned into a Yakshi, (which is a class of mythical beings in Malayalam folklore, equivalent to the Yaksha class in Hindu Puranas) waylaying men with her beauty and drinking their blood.

Mangalathu Chiruthevi

Chiruthevi was a courtesan who had as her clients the high and the mighty. But she was infatuated with one of her many servants, Kunjuraman. Kunjuraman, a Pondan Nair (palanquin-bearer), was a fair, tall, well-built and handsome young man. She and her brother Govindan used to ride on Kunjuraman's back to nearby places. A predatory sadist, Chiruthevi enjoyed torturing Kunjuraman physically and mentally. She did everything possible to separate him from his wife.

In course of time, the unmarried Govindan and Kunjuraman became bosom friends. They often shared the same room. Chiruthevi was not quite comfortable with the growing fondness of her brother for her lover. But she did not act.

Chiruthevi hatched a plot and liquidated Kunjuraman's wife. Once Govindan was travelling on Kunjuraman's back when the former revealed the details of the plot. Days later, Kunjuraman strangled Chiruthevi to death when they were sharing a bed. Govindan winked at the crime and protected his beloved friend.

Chiruthevi was reborn as a vengeful Yakshi to a couple at Kanjiracode. She grew into a bewitching beauty within moments of her birth. Though she seduced many men and drank their blood, her heart was set on the handsome Kunjuraman. She told him that she was willing to pardon him if he married her. Kunjuraman flatly refused. The Yakshi channelised all her energies in tormenting him. Devastated, Kunjuraman sought the assistance of Mangalathu Govindan, who was a great upasaka of Lord Balarama. Govindan was for a compromise. He said that the Yakshi could have Kunjuraman for a year provided she conformed to three conditions. One, she must agree to be installed at a temple after one year. Two, after many years the temple will be destroyed and she must then seek refuge in (saranagati) Lord Narasimha for attaining moksham. Three, she must pray for Govindan and his relationship with Kunjuraman not only in their current birth but also in their subsequent births. The Yakshi swore upon 'ponnum vilakkum' that she would abide by all the three conditions. Thus the compromise formula worked.

Kanjiracottu Valiaveedu Temple

A year later, the Yakshi was installed at a Temple which later came to be owned by Kanjiracottu Valiaveedu. The members of Valiaveedu started worshipping this Yakshi besides their Guardian Deity, Sri Ramanuja Perumal (Lord Krishna accompanied by Sri Rukmini and Lord Balarama). Devotees used to offer Pongala to Yakshi Amma on Pooram in the month of Meenom and on the first Fridays in every Malayalam month except Meenom. The Temple does not exist any more.

Kanjirottu Yakshi and Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple

After taking refuge in Lord Narasimha of Thekkedom, the Yakshi is now believed to be residing in Kallara B of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. As Princess Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi observes, "Disturbing her peace would be a disaster especially if her current quiet temperament reverts to the menacing nature that was once hers." The enchanting and ferocious forms of this Yakshi are painted on the south-west part of Sri Padmanabha's shrine.

Sundara Lakshmi

Sundara Lakshmi, an accomplished dancer and consort of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, was an ardent devotee of Kanjirottu Yakshi Amma.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Nautch dancer in Calcutta, ca. 1900

A Raja awaits the arrival of Nautch dancers

A Nautch girl performing, 1862

In North India, Nautch (/ˈnɔːtʃ/) is one of several styles of popular dance, performed by girls known as Nautch girls. The word Nautch is an anglicized version of नाच (nāc), a word found in several languages of North India including Hindi and Urdu, derived from the Sanskrit, Nritya, via the Prakrit, Nachcha. A simple and literal translation of Nautch is "dance" or "dancing".

The culture of the performing art of Nautch rose to prominence during the later period of Mughal Empire, and the British East India Company Rule. Over time, the Nautch traveled outside the confines of the Imperial courts of the Mughals, the palaces of the Nawabs and the Princely states, and the higher echelons of the officials of the British Raj, to the places of smaller Zamindars, and other places.

Some references use the terms Nautch and Nautch girls to describe Devadasis who used to perform ritual and religious dances in the Hindu temples of India. However, there is not much similarity between the Devadasis and the Nautch girls. The former performed dances, mostly Indian classical dances, including the ritual dances, in the precincts of the Hindu temples to please the temple deities, whereas the Nautch girls performed Nautches for the pleasure of men. In 1917, attributing the adjective to a woman in India would suggest her entrancing skill, tempting style and alluring costume could mesmerize men to absolute obedience.


Earlier, devotional dances were performed in the temples by the devdasi for spiritual reasons only. During the mughal era, dance for entertainment became popular, and many rulers took dance girls in their entourages even at their battle-camps. The early British settlers in India were often given tawaifs as welcome gifts or rewards. In 18th century, young princes were sent to nautch girls to learn "tehzeeb" (elegance) and culture.

During the Mughal era and British raj, nautch girls regularly performed at durbars. Nautch girls were also invited to perform on the special events of the native Indians where guests congregated in a separate performance hall, nautch girls sat with the nautch party, composed of attendant musicians and two or more nautch girls, whose numbers vary depending on the status of the host.

"Hindi women in general are finely shaped, gentle in their manners, and have something soft and even musical in their voices. An exceedingly graceful dance of the Natch girls is called the “Kite dance.” The air is slow and expressive, and the dancers imitate in their gestures the movements of a person flying the kite."
— Julia, British Raj author (1873)


Nautch types

Nautch, perform only by the girls, evolved into several styles, three of which were most essential, the "mor nach" (the dance of peacock to attract peahens), "patang nach" (the kite dance imitating both the kite and the kite flier) and "qahar ka nach" (the palki pallbearer’s dance, erotic and suggestive dance performed as finale) were popular types of dance.

"Jealousy and love are hardly ever better portrayed than by the dark flashing eyes, and unrestrained passion, of an Indian natch girl. Very few English admire this exhibition on the first representation, but by repetition it ceases to disgust, and at length, in many cases, comes to form the chief enjoyment of life. It is a fact, however, that whenever this fatal taste is acquired, the moral being of the man becomes more and more enervated, until its healthier European characteristics that are lost in the voluptuous indolence that enthrals the generality of the western Asiatics."

— The English in India, and other sketches, by a traveller (1835)

Regional variations of nautch

The "zamindari natch" (feudal dance) patronised by the Zamindar of Baghmundi was known as Araiha, in which two or four nautch girls and two jhumar singers in company of about 20 male dancers took part in the singing and dancing, part of the songs were repeated by the dancing girls and by the male dancers, and the nautch girls formed a line or a circle to dance similar to fox-trot as two or three sing, and they repeat the refrain.

Nautch party

The "Nautch" girls performed in small troupes called the "nautch parties", which consisted of just one or two people to 10 or more, including dancers and singer, and their husbands often played the role of musicians and handlers.

Nautch girls

"A nautch girl is not a Domni (hereditary female singer), Kasbi (a female belonging to family which practices hereditary sex trade), Randi (first generation prostitute), Tawaif (elegant and cultured female master of arts, including singing and dancing), Kanjari (low-class uncultured Tawaif), Nochi (young girl trainee under a tawaaif) or Devdasi (temple dancer devoted to the practice of spiritual dancing); she belongs to her own distinctive class."

— The Times of India

A nautch girl is a dancer who makes a living by entertaining men, women and children of all social classes, regions, castes and religions on various occasions including parties, weddings, christenings, religious ceremonies, and other social events. Their dances were simplified combination of kathak, dasi attam and folk dance. The wandering troop of nautch girl often traveled to different places, performed impromptu roadside dance performances or just turned up uninvited to perform at the homes of their richer patrons who were customary obliged to pay them. They performed everywhere, in the homes of their patrons, public places or on stage, also in Mughal courts, palaces of nawabs, mahals (castles) of rajas, bungalows of British Raj officers, homes of nobles, havelis (mansions) of zamindars (landowners) and many other places.

"They [nuatch girls] are extremely delicate in their person, soft and regular in their features, with a form of perfect symmetry, and although dedicated from infancy to this profession, they in general preserve a decency and modesty in their demeanor, which is more likely to allure than the shameless effrontery of similar characters in other countries."

— James Forbes (artist) (1749–1819), Oriental Memoirs (1813)

Nautch musicians
The nautch party musicians historically played four instruments: sarangi, tabla, manjeera and dholak, and a fifth instrument, harmonium was introduced in the beginning of the 20th century. Musicians performed while standing in the courts, palaces and the homes of the rich patrons. They performed while sitting in the homes of poor patrons and in public performances. Singers of the nautch party Nautch used thumri, dadra, ghazal and geet.

Nautch handlers: mama and muhafiz

"Mama", usually an older experienced maidservant, who sat in a corner of the dais preparing paan (betel nut) and beedi (Indian cigar) for patrons, was responsible for taking care of nautch girls, teir meals and safekeeping of the jewelry worn by them. "Muhafiz" was an unarmed guard who maintained order, acted as usher, ensured protection during performance and travel. "Mashalchis" (one or two lamp bearers) of the troupe were responsible for the lighting during the night performance.

"The tent was most glaringly lighted, massaulchis or torch-bearers stood here and there ready to attend to any person who might require them…we had scarcely seated ourselves ere two of them made their appearance, floating into our presence, all tinsel colored muslin and ornaments: they were followed by three musicians, and attended by a couple of mussaulchis who held their torches first to the face and then lower down as if showing off the charms of the dancers to the best advantage."

— Lieutenant Thomas Bacon, Description of Late Evening Nautch

Famous nautch girls

Roopmati was a famous Hindu nautch girl from Saharanpur who married Muslim sultan Baz Bahadur of Malwa and after hearing about her beauty Akbar is said to have invaded Malwa. In 1561, Akbar's army led by Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan attacked Malwa and defeated Baz Bahadur in the battle of Sarangpur on 29 March 1561. One of the reasons for Adham Khan's attack seems to be his lust for Rani Roopmati. Rani Roopmati poisoned herself upon hearing of the fall of Mandu. Baz Bahadur fled to Khandesh.
"Pyari Jan" was a famous nautch girl of Delhi in 1815.

"From time immemorial Indian poets have sung praises of the 'public woman', the professional entertainer. The epics give us a colourful description of her intimate connection with royal splendour. The Puranas highlight her auspicious presence as a symbol of good luck. Buddhist literature also testifies to the high esteem in which she was held in society. She appears through the ages in different incarnations from apsara [celestial virgin] in divine form to ganika [attendant], devdasi [spiritual dancer], nartika [ordinary dancer], kanchani, tawaif [cultured professional courtesan] and the nautch girl [assorted dancer member of the professional troupe]."

— Pran Nevile

Decline in patronship and prostitution

In the mid-nineteenth century, with spread of western education and pressure from the increased number of Christian missionaries after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, dance was stigmatized and shunned by British and Indians. Consequently, nautch girls abandoned by their patrons were often forced to take up prostitution for survival. Consequently, by early 20th century the respectable art of nautch acquired a derogatory notion.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A tawaif was a highly sophisticated courtesan who catered to the nobility of India, particularly during the Mughal era. The tawaifs excelled in and contributed to music, dance (mujra), theatre, and the Urdu literary tradition, and were considered an authority on etiquette. Tawaifs were largely a North Indian institution central to Mughal court culture from the 16th century onwards and became even more prominent with the weakening of Mughal rule in the mid-18th century. They contributed significantly to the continuation of traditional dance and music forms and then emergence of modern Indian cinema.


The patronage of the Mughal court before and after the Mughal Dynasty in the Doab region and the artistic atmosphere of 16th century Lucknow made arts-related careers a viable prospect. Many girls were taken at a young age and trained in both performing arts (such as Kathak and Hindustani classical music) as well as literature (ghazal, thumri) to high standards. Once they had matured and possessed a sufficient command over dancing and singing, they became a tawaif, high-class courtesans who served the rich and noble.

The tawaif's introduction into her profession was marked by a celebration, the so-called missī ceremony, that customarily included the inaugural blackening of her teeth.

It is also believed that young nawabs-to-be were sent to these "tawaifs" to learn "tameez" and "tehzeeb" which included the ability to differentiate and appreciate good music and literature, perhaps even practice it, especially the art of ghazal writing. By the 18th century, they had become the central element of polite, refined culture in North India.

These courtesans would dance, sing (especially ghazals), recite poetry (shairi) and entertain their suitors at mehfils. Like the geisha tradition in Japan, their main purpose was to professionally entertain their guests, and while sex was often incidental, it was not assured contractually. High-class or the most popular tawaifs could often pick and choose among the best of their suitors.

Some of the popular tawaifs were Begum Samru (who rose to rule the principality of Sardhana in western UP), Moran Sarkar (who became the wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh), Wazeeran (patronised by Lucknow’s last nawab Wajid Ali Shah), Begum Hazrat Mahal (Wajid Ali's first wife who played an important role in the First War of Independence), Umrao Jaan (1981), Gauhar Jaan (a notable classical singer who sang for India's first-ever record), and Zohrabai Agrewali.


Singer and dancer, Gauhar Jaan (1873–1930)

The annexation of Oudh by the British in 1856 sounded the first death-knell for this medieval institution. It soon was not favoured by the British, and the women were branded as prostitutes to defame them. Social reformers opposed them as social decadence. The institutions survived until India's Independence. Some of the famous Tawaifs include :

Malka Jaan, and daughter Gauhar Jan (1873-1930) who created the very first Indian song recording in 1902.
Jaddanbai (1892-1949)- a master music composer, singer, actress, and even film maker.
Begum Akhtar (1914 - 1974) Padma Bhushan
Zohrabai Ambalewali (1918- 1990)
Binodini Dasi (1862–1941)
Fatma Begum (1892-1983) and daughter Zubeida (1911-1988), who acted in the first Indian talkie movie Alam Ara (1931)
Rasoolan Bai (1902 – 15 December 1974)
Roshan Ara Begum (1917 – 6 December 1982) Sitara-e-Imtiaz
Zareena Begum of Lucknow (1947 – 12 May 2018)
They used to be the only source of popular music and dance and were often invited to perform on weddings and other occasions. Some of them became concubines of maharajas and wealthy individuals. With the emergence of movies and record industry, they lost popularity.
Popular culture
The image of the tawaif has had an enduring appeal, immortalized in Bollywood movies. Films with a tawaif as a central character include Devdas (1955), Sadhna (1958), Pakeezah (1972), Amar Prem (1972), Umrao Jaan (1981), Tawaif (1985), Pati Patni Aur Tawaif (1990), Devdas (2002), and Umrao Jaan (2006) and documentary film, The Other Song (2009). Other films depict a tawaif in a supporting role, often in situations where a man in a loveless marriage goes to her.

Shamakhi dancers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A dancer from Shamakhi. G.Gagarin, mid-19th century

The Shamakhi dancers (Azerbaijani: Şamaxı rəqqasələri) were the principal dancers of the entertainment groups that existed in Shamakhi (Azerbaijan) up to the late 19th century. These groups worked similarly to tawaifs.

Russian painter Grigory Gagarin who lived in the Caucasus in 1840–1855 depicted the Shamakhi dancers in a series of paintings, in which he referred to them as bayaderki (баядерки; sg. bayaderka – баядерка; originally the Portuguese term balliadera borrowed into Russian and other European languages via French (bayadère) and initially used to refer to the devadasi.)

The extant documents regarding the Shamakhi dancers, and dances, are very limited. In literature, Shamakhi dancers are referred to in Comte de Gobineau's novel The dancing girl of Shamakha and other Asiatic tales.

The Dancer of Shamakha recounts the life of Armenian dancer Armen Ohanian, her education as a dancer, her childhood in Russia, and her travels in Iran and Egypt. It was published in French as La Danseuse de Shamakha in 1918 and translated into English in 1923 by Rose Wilder. After moving to Europe, Ohanian danced traditional dances for audiences, gave lectures on poetry, and was an active member in intellectual and political circles. She eventually moved to Mexico. She is the author of some 15 publications including autobiographical volumes and books on culture and politics.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chosŏn'gŭl 기쁨조
Hancha 기쁨組
Revised Romanization Gippeumjo
McCune–Reischauer Kippŭmjo

The Kippumjo or Gippeumjo (translated variously as Pleasure Group, Pleasure Groups, Pleasure Squad, Pleasure Brigade, or Joy Division) is an alleged collection of groups of approximately 2,000 women and girls that is maintained by the head of state of North Korea for the purpose of providing pleasure, mostly of a sexual nature, and entertainment for high-ranking Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) officials and their families, as well as occasionally distinguished guests.

The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said that the group that used to perform for Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, was disbanded shortly after the elder Kim's death in December 2011. The members supposedly were made to sign a pledge of secrecy in exchange for money and gifts. According to the paper, the women who worked as entertainers received an amount of money worth $4,000 before returning to their hometowns. The girls in the squad would also receive compensation in the form of home appliances.

Little is known outside North Korea about the Gippeumjo, but information has gradually emerged through the testimony of North Koreans who have defected, particularly Kenji Fujimoto and Mi Hyang.

The first two syllables of the name, gippeum, is a native Korean word meaning joy or happiness. The suffix jo (組) is a Sino-Korean word which describes a group of people, roughly analogous to the terms "squad" or "team". Kim Il-sung is believed to have established this corps of women in the belief that having sexual relations with young women would increase his jing and have the effect of enhancing his life force, or gi (hangul: 기; hanja: 氣; no relation to the gi in gippeum).


The Gippeumjo were reported to have been established in 1978, during the administration of Kim Il-sung. The first group was recruited by Lee Dong-ho, the First Vice Director of the Department of United Front of the WPK, for the purpose of entertaining Kim at the Munsu Chodaeso (문수 초대소; Munsu Guesthouse). In 2015 the recruiting and training of Gippeumjo were administered by the Fifth Department of Staff of the Organic Direction of the Party.[citation needed] The practice was said to have been maintained by Il-sung's son, Kim Jong-il, until his own death in 2011.

In April 2015, Kim Jong-un was reportedly seeking new members for his own Gippeumjo, after his father's group of girls was disbanded in December 2011.


Each pleasure group is composed of three teams:

Manjokjo (hangul: 만족조; hanja: 滿足組) – a satisfaction team (which provides sexual services)
Haengbokjo (hangul: 행복조; hanja: 幸福組) – a happiness team (which provides massages)
Gamujo (hangul: 가무조; hanja: 歌舞組) – a dancing and singing team (whose members are sometimes asked to dance semi-nude)

Girls from throughout the country are recruited to be Gippeumjo members according to government criteria (one of which is that they must be virgins). After being selected, they undergo a rigorous training period, with some Haengbokjo members being sent overseas for massage training. Gippeumjo members typically leave at age 22 or 25. At that time they are often married to members of North Korea's elite—and are also sometimes paired off with military officers seeking wives—and their former membership in the Gippeumjo is kept secret.

Comfort women
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Comfort women

Memorial to comfort women, Philippines

Chinese name

Traditional Chinese 慰安婦
Simplified Chinese 慰安妇


Japanese name
Kanji 慰安婦
Hiragana いあんふ


Alternate Japanese name
Kanji 従軍慰安婦


Korean name
Hangul 위안부
Hanja 慰安婦


Comfort women were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II.

The name "comfort women" is a translation of the Japanese ianfu (慰安婦), a euphemism for "prostitute(s)". Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 (by Japanese conservative historian Ikuhiko Hata) to as high as 360,000 to 410,000 (by a Chinese scholar); the exact numbers are still being researched and debated. Most of the women were from occupied countries, including Korea, China, and the Philippines. Women were used for military "comfort stations" from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Taiwan (then a Japanese dependency), the Dutch East Indies, Portuguese Timor, and other Japanese-occupied territories. Stations were located in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, then Malaya, Thailand, Burma, New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, and French Indochina. A smaller number of women of European origin were also involved from the Netherlands and Australia with an estimated 200–400 Dutch women alone.

According to testimonies, young women were abducted from their homes in countries under Imperial Japanese rule. In many cases, women were lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants, or opportunities for higher education; once recruited, they were incarcerated in comfort stations both inside their nations and abroad.

Establishment of the comfort women system

Chinese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Penang by the Japanese to work as 'comfort girls' for the troops

Studio portrait of Jan Ruff O'Herne, taken shortly before she, her mother and sisters, and thousands of other Dutch women and children were interned by the Japanese Imperial Army in Ambarawa. Over the following months, O'Herne and six other Dutch women were repeatedly raped and beaten, day and night, by Japanese personnel.

Japanese military prostitution

Military correspondence of the Imperial Japanese Army shows that the aim of facilitating comfort stations was the prevention of rape crimes committed by Japanese army personnel and thus preventing the rise of hostility among people in occupied areas. Carmen Argibay, a former member of the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice, also states that the Japanese government aimed to prevent atrocities like the Rape of Nanking by confining rape and sexual abuse within military controlled facilities, or stop the incident from leaking to the international press should such events occur. She also states that the government wanted to minimize medical expenses on treating venereal diseases that the soldiers acquired from frequent and widespread rape, which hindered Japan's military capacity. Furthermore, Yuki Tanaka also suggests that local brothels outside of the military's reach had issues of security since there were possibilities of spies disguised as workers of such private facilities.

Since prostitution in Japan was well-organized and open, the Japanese government and military developed a similar program to serve the Japanese Armed Forces. The Japanese Army established the comfort stations to prevent venereal diseases and rape by Japanese soldiers, to provide comfort to soldiers and head off espionage. According to Japanese historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, however, the comfort stations did not solve, but aggravated the first two problems. Yoshimi has asserted, "The Japanese Imperial Army feared most that the simmering discontentment of the soldiers could explode into a riot and revolt. That is why it provided women".


The first comfort station was established in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1932. Earlier comfort women were Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for such service. However, as Japan continued military expansion, the military found itself short of Japanese volunteers, and turned to the local population to coerce women into serving in these stations, or abducted them. Many women responded to calls for work as factory workers or nurses, and did not know that they were being pressed into sexual slavery.

In the early stages of the war, Japanese authorities recruited prostitutes through conventional means. In urban areas, conventional advertising through middlemen was used alongside kidnapping. Middlemen advertised in newspapers circulating in Japan and the Japanese colonies of Korea, Taiwan, Manchukuo, and China. These sources soon dried up, especially from Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs resisted further issuance of travel visas for Japanese prostitutes, feeling it tarnished the image of the Japanese Empire. The military turned to acquiring comfort women outside mainland Japan, mostly from Korea and occupied China. An existing system of licensed prostitution within Korea made it easy for Japan to recruit females in large numbers.

Many women were tricked or defrauded into joining the military brothels. The US Office of War Interrogation Report No.49 indicates that Korean girls misunderstood the nature of the service as treating wounds or generally making the soldiers happy. Based on false characterizations and payment from the Japanese recruitment agents which can help relieve family debts, many Korean girls enlisted to take the job. Furthermore, the South East Asia Translation and Interrogation Center(SEATIC) Psychological Warfare Interrogation Bulletin No.2 states that a Japanese facility manager purchased Korean women for 300 to 1000 yen depending on her physical characteristics, who then became his property and were not released even after completing the servitude terms specified in the contract. In northern Hebei province of China Hui Muslim girls were recruited to "Huimin Girls' school" to be trained as entertainers, but then forced to serve as sex slaves. The American historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote that a major issue that no historian has examined is whether the soldiers of the Indian National Army "...were permitted to share in the "comfort" provided by thousands of kidnapped Korean young women held as sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese Army at its camps. This might have provided them with some insight into the nature of Japanese, as opposed to British, colonial rule, as well what might be in store for their sisters and daughters."

Under the strain of the war effort, the military became unable to provide enough supplies to Japanese units; in response, the units made up the difference by demanding or looting supplies from the locals. The military often directly demanded that local leaders procure women for the brothels along the front lines, especially in the countryside where middlemen were rare. When the locals were considered hostile in China, Japanese soldiers carried out the "Three Alls Policy" ("kill all-burn all-loot all") which included indiscriminately kidnapping and raping local civilians. By taking women from other Asian countries occupied by Japan to serve as "comfort women" was intended by the Japanese state to symbolically "castrate" other Asian men to show that they could not defend their women as fathers, brothers, husbands or boyfriends (the ultimate failure of a man in the patriarchal, Confucian cultures of East Asia) and to degrade the women themselves.

Later archives

On April 17, 2007, Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Hirofumi Hayashi announced the discovery of seven official documents in the archives of the Tokyo Trials, suggesting that Imperial military forces – such as the Tokkeitai (Naval military police) – forced women whose fathers attacked the Kenpeitai (Army military police) to work in front-line brothels in China, Indochina, and Indonesia. These documents were initially made public at the war crimes trial. In one of these, a lieutenant is quoted as confessing to having organized a brothel and having used it himself. Another source refers to Tokkeitai members having arrested women on the streets and putting them in brothels after enforced medical examinations.

On May 12, 2007, journalist Taichiro Kajimura announced the discovery of 30 Dutch government documents submitted to the Tokyo tribunal as evidence of a forced mass prostitution incident in 1944 in Magelang.

The South Korean government designated Bae Jeong-ja as a pro-Japanese collaborator (chinilpa) in September 2007 for recruiting comfort women.

In 2014, China produced almost 90 documents from the archives of the Kwantung Army on the issue. According to China, the documents provide ironclad proof that the Japanese military forced Asian women to work in front-line brothels before and during World War II.

In June 2014, more official documents were made public from the government of Japan's archives, documenting sexual violence and women forced into sexual slavery, committed by Imperial Japanese soldiers in French Indochina and Indonesia.

A 2015 study examined archival data which was previously difficult to access, partly due to the China-Japan Joint Communiqué of 1972 in which the Chinese government agreed not to seek any restitution for wartime crimes and incidents. New documents discovered in China shed light on facilities inside comfort stations operated within a Japanese army compound, and the conditions of the Korean comfort women. Documents were discovered verifying the Japanese Army as the funding agency for purchasing some comfort women.

Documents were found in Shanghai that showed details of how the Japanese Army went about opening comfort stations for Japanese troops in occupied Shanghai. Documents included the Tianjin Municipal Archives from the archival files of the Japanese government and the Japanese police during the periods of the occupation in World War II. Municipal archives from Shanghai and Nanjing were also examined. One conclusion reached was that the relevant archives in Korea are distorted. A conclusion of the study was that the Japanese Imperial government, and the colonial government in Korea, tried to avoid recording the illegal mobilization of comfort women. It was concluded that they burned most of the records immediately before the surrender; but, the study confirmed that some documents and records survived.

Number of comfort women

Lack of official documentation has made estimating the total number of comfort women difficult. Vast amounts of material pertaining to war crimes, and the responsibility of the nation's highest leaders, were destroyed on the orders of the Japanese government at the end of the war. Historians have arrived at various estimates by looking at surviving documentation, which indicates the ratio of soldiers in a particular area to the number of women, and replacement rates of the women. Historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, who conducted the first academic study on the topic and brought the issue out into the open, estimated the number to be between 50,000 and 200,000.

Based on these estimates, most international media sources quote about 200,000 young women were kidnapped by Japanese soldiers to serve in military brothels. The BBC quotes "200,000 to 300,000", and the International Commission of Jurists quotes "estimates of historians of 100,000 to 200,000 women." The Asahi Shinbun apologized in 2014 for stating the number of Korean comfort women at 200,000, which was regarded as inaccurate and the result of a conflation with an unrelated factory program.

Countries of origin

Historical Marker, Plaza Lawton, Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila

According to State University of New York at Buffalo professor Yoshiko Nozaki and other sources, the majority of the women were from Korea and China. Chuo University professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi states there were about 2,000 centers where as many as 200,000 Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Taiwanese, Burmese, Indonesian, Dutch and Australian women were interned. Ikuhiko Hata, a professor of Nihon University, estimated the number of women working in the licensed pleasure quarter was fewer than 20,000 and that they were 40% Japanese, 20% Koreans, 10% Chinese, with others making up the remaining 30%. According to Hata, the total number of government-regulated prostitutes in Japan was only 170,000 during World War II. Others came from the Philippines, Taiwan, Dutch East Indies, and other Japanese-occupied countries and regions. Some Dutch women, captured in Dutch colonies in Asia, were also forced into sexual slavery.

In further analysis of the Imperial Army medical records for venereal disease treatment from 1940, Yoshimi concluded that if the percentages of women treated reflected the general makeup of the total comfort women population, Korean women comprised 51.8 percent, Chinese 36 percent and Japanese 12.2 percent.

In 1997, Bruce Cumings, a historian of Korea, wrote that Japan had forced quotas to supply the comfort women program, and that Korean men helped recruit the victims. Cumings stated that between 100,000 and 200,000 Korean girls and women were recruited. In Korea, the daughters of the gentry and the bureaucracy were spared from being sent into the "comfort women corps" unless they or their families showed signs of pro-independence tendencies, and the overwhelming majority of the Korean girls taken into the "comfort women corps" came from the poor. The Army and Navy often subcontracted the work of taking girls into the "comfort women corps" in Korea to contractors, who were usually associated in some way with organized crime groups, who were paid for girls they presented. Though a substantial minority of the contractors in Korea were Japanese, the majority were Korean.

A Dutch government study described how the Japanese military itself seized the women by force in the Dutch East Indies. It concluded that among the 200 to 300 European women found in the Japanese military brothels, “some sixty five were most certainly forced into prostitution.” Others, faced with starvation in the refugee camps, agreed to offers of food and payment for work, the nature of which was not completely revealed to them.Some of the women also volunteered in hopes protecting the younger ones. The women forced into prostitution may therefore be much higher than the Dutch record have previously indicated. The number of Dutch women that were sexually assaulted or molested were also largely ignored.

J.F. van Wagtendonk and the Dutch Broadcast Foundation estimated a total number of 400 Dutch girls were taken from the camps to become comfort women.

Besides Dutch women, many Javanese were also recruited from Indonesia as comfort women. Most were adolescent girls aged 14–19 who had completed some education and were deceived through promises of higher education in Tokyo or Singapore. Common destinations of comfort women from Java included Burma, Thailand, and Eastern Indonesia. Interviews conducted with former comfort women also suggest that some women came from the island of Flores. After the war, many Javanese comfort women who survived stayed in the locations where they had been trafficked to and became integrated into local populations.

To date, only one Japanese woman has published her testimony. This was done in 1971, when a former comfort woman forced to work for Showa soldiers in Taiwan, published her memoirs under the pseudonym of Suzuko Shirota.

Treatment of comfort women

Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually transmitted diseases. Beatings and physical torture were said to be common. The women who were not prostitutes prior to joining the "comfort women corps", especially those taken in by force, were normally "broken in" by being raped. One Korean woman, Kim Hak-sun stated in a 1991 interview about how she was drafted into the "comfort women corps" in 1941: "When I was 17 years old, the Japanese soldiers came along in a truck, beat us [her and a friend], and then dragged us into the back. I was told if I were drafted, I could earn lots of money in a textile factory...The first day I was raped and the rapes never stopped...I was born a woman but never lived as a woman...I feel sick when I come close to a man. Not just Japanese men, but all men-even my own husband who saved me from the brothel. I shiver whenever I see a Japanese flag...Why should I feel ashamed? I don't have to feel ashamed." Kim stated that she was raped 30–40 times a day, everyday of the year during her time as a "comfort woman". Reflecting their dehumanized status, Army and Navy records where referring to the movement of "comfort women" always used the term "units of war supplies". One Japanese Army doctor, Asō Tetsuo testified that the "comfort women" were seen as "female ammunition" and as "public toilets", as literally just things to be used and abused, with some "comfort women" being forced to donate blood for the treatment of wounded soldiers. At least 80% of the "comfort women" were Korean, who were assigned to the lower ranks while Japanese and European women went to the officers. For example, Dutch women captured in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) were reserved exclusively for the officers. Korea is a Confucian country where premarital sex was widely disapproved of, and since the Korean teenagers taken into the "comfort women corps" were almost always virgins, it was felt that this was the best way to limit the spread of venereal diseases that would otherwise incapacitate soldiers and sailors.

Ten Dutch women were taken by force from prison camps in Java by officers of the Japanese Imperial Army to become forced sex slaves in February 1944. They were systematically beaten and raped day and night. As a victim of the incident, in 1990, Jan Ruff-O'Herne testified to a U.S. House of Representatives committee:

Many stories have been told about the horrors, brutalities, suffering and starvation of Dutch women in Japanese prison camps. But one story was never told, the most shameful story of the worst human rights abuse committed by the Japanese during World War II: The story of the “Comfort Women”, the jugun ianfu, and how these women were forcibly seized against their will, to provide sexual services for the Japanese Imperial Army. In the “comfort station” I was systematically beaten and raped day and night. Even the Japanese doctor raped me each time he visited the brothel to examine us for venereal disease.

In their first morning at the brothel, photographs of Ruff-O'Herne and the others were taken and placed on the veranda which was used as a reception area for the Japanese personnel who would choose from these photographs. Over the following four months the girls were raped and beaten day and night, with those who became pregnant forced to have abortions. After four harrowing months, the girls were moved to a camp at Bogor, in West Java, where they were reunited with their families. This camp was exclusively for women who had been put into military brothels, and the Japanese warned the inmates that if anyone told what had happened to them, they and their family members would be killed. Several months later the O'Hernes were transferred to a camp at Batavia, which was liberated on August 15, 1945.

The Japanese officers involved received some punishment by Japanese authorities at the end of the war. After the end of the war, 11 Japanese officers were found guilty with one soldier being sentenced to death by the Batavia War Criminal Court. The court decision found that the charge violated was the Army's order to hire only voluntary women. Victims from East Timor testified they were forced into slavery even when they were not old enough to have started menstruating. The court testimonies state that these prepubescent girls were repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers while those who refused to comply were executed.

Hank Nelson, emeritus professor at the Australian National University's Asia Pacific Research Division, has written about the brothels run by the Japanese military in Rabaul, in what is now Papua New Guinea during WWII. He quotes from the diary of Gordon Thomas, a POW in Rabaul. Thomas writes that the women working at the brothels "most likely served 25 to 35 men a day" and that they were "victims of the yellow slave trade". Nelson also quotes from Kentaro Igusa, a Japanese naval surgeon who was stationed in Rabaul. Igusa wrote in his memoirs that the women continued to work through infection and severe discomfort, though they "cried and begged for help".

During the last stand of Japanese forces in 1944–45, "comfort women" were often forced to commit suicide or were killed. At the Truk naval base, 70 "comfort women" were killed prior to the expected American assault as the Navy mistook the American air raid that destroyed Truk as the prelude to an American landing while during the Battle of Saipan "comfort women" were among those who committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs of Saipan. The Japanese government had told the Japanese colonists on Saipan that the American "white devils" were cannibals, and so the Japanese population preferred suicide to falling into the hands of the American "white devils". In Burma, there were cases of Korean "comfort women" committing suicide by swallowing cyanide pills or being killed by having a hand grenade tossed into their dug-outs. During the Battle of Manila, when Japanese sailors ran amok and simply killed everyone, there were cases of "comfort women" being killed, through does not seem to have any systematic policy of killing "comfort women". Japanese propaganda had it that the Anglo-American "white devils" were cannibals whose favorite food were Asians, and it is possible that many of the Asian "comfort women" may have actually believed this, and so preferred suicide to the supposed horrors of being eaten alive by the "white devils". British soldiers fighting in Burma often reported that the Korean "comfort women" whom they captured were astonished to learn that the British were not going to eat them. Ironically, given this claim, there were cases of starving Japanese troops cut off on remote Pacific islands or trapped in the jungles of Burma turning towards cannibalism, and there were at least several cases where "comfort women" in Burma and on Pacific islands were killed to provide protein for the Japanese Army.

Sterility, abortion and reproduction

The Japanese Army and Navy went to great lengths to avoid venereal diseases with large numbers of condoms being handed out for free. For example, documents show that in July 1943 the Army handed out 1,000 condoms for soldiers in Negri Sembilan and another 10,000 for soldiers in Perak. The "comfort women" were usually injected with terramycin or salvarsan every time after intercourse, which together with damage to the vagina caused by rape or rough sex were the causes of unusually high rates of sterility among the "comfort women". As the war went on and as the shortages caused by the sinking of almost the entire Japanese merchant marine by American submarines kicked in, medical care for the "comfort women" declined as dwindling medical supplies were reserved for the servicemen. As Japanese logistics broke down as the American submarines sunk one Japanese ship after another, condoms had to be washed and reused, reducing their effectiveness. In the Philippines, "comfort women" were billed by Japanese doctors if they required medical treatment. In many cases, "comfort women" who were seriously ill were abandoned to die alone.

The Survey of Korean Comfort Women Used by Japanese Soldiers said that 30% of the interviewed former Korean comfort women produced biological children and 20% adopted children after World War II.

History of the issue

In 1944, Allied forces captured twenty Korean comfort women and two Japanese comfort station owners in Burma and issued Report no. 49. According to the report, Korean girls were deceived into being used as comfort women by the Japanese; in 1942, there were about 800 girls trafficked from Korea to Burma in this manner of obtaining comfort women. In Confucian nations like Korea and China, where premarital sex is considered shameful, the subject of the "comfort women" was ignored for decades after 1945 as the victims were considered pariahs. In Confucian cultures, traditionally an unmarried woman must value her chastity above her own life, and any women who loses her virginity before marriage for whatever reason is expected to commit suicide; by choosing to live, the survivors made themselves into outcasts.

In 1973, a man named Kakou Senda wrote a book about the comfort women system that focused on Japanese participants. His book has been widely criticized as distorting the facts by both Japanese and South Korean historians. This was the first postwar mention of the comfort women system and became an important source for 1990s activism on the issue.

The first book written by a Korean on the subject of comfort women appeared in 1981. However, it was a plagiarism of a 1976 Japanese book by the zainichi author Kim Il-Myeon.

In 1989, the testimony of Seiji Yoshida was translated into Korean. His book was debunked as fraudulent by some Japanese and Korean journalists, and in May 1996 Yoshida admitted that his memoir was fictional, stating in an interview by Shūkan Shinchō that "There is no profit in writing the truth in books. Hiding the facts and mixing them with your own assertions is something that newspapers do all the time too". In August 2014, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun also retracted articles that the paper had published based on or including information from Yoshida, in large part because of pressure from conservative activists and organizations. Following the retraction, attacks from conservatives increased. Takashi Uemura, a journalist who wrote one of the retracted articles, was subject to similar attacks from conservatives, and his employer, Hokusei Gakuen University, was pressured to terminate his position.

In 1993, following multiple testimonies, the Kono Statement (named after then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono) was issued by Japanese Government confirming that coercion was involved in seizing the comfort women. In 1999, the Japanese historian Kazuko Watanabe complained about a lack of sisterhood among Japanese women, citing a survey showing 50% of Japanese women did not believe in the stories of the "comfort women", charging that many Japanese simply regard other Asians as "others" whose feelings do not count. In 2007, the Japanese government issued a response to questions which had been posed to Prime Minister Abe about his position on the issue, concluding that "No evidence was found that the Japanese army or the military officials seized the women by force." In 2014, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga formed a team to reexamine the background of the report. The review brought to light coordination between Japan and South Korea in the process of composing the Kono Statement and concluded that, at the request of Seoul, Tokyo stipulated coercion was involved in recruiting the women. After the review, Suga and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that Japan continues to uphold the Kono Statement.

In 2014, China released documents it said were "ironclad proof" that the comfort women were forced to work as prostitutes against their will, including documents from the Japanese Kwantung Army military police corps archives and documents from the national bank of Japan's puppet regime in Manchuria.

Apologies and compensation

Rangoon, Burma. August 8, 1945. A young ethnic Chinese woman from one of the Imperial Japanese Army's "comfort battalions" is interviewed by an Allied officer.

In 1951, at the start of negotiations, the South Korean government initially demanded $364 million in compensation for Koreans forced into labor and military service during the Japanese occupation: $200 per survivor, $1,650 per death and $2,000 per injured person. In the final agreement reached in the 1965 treaty, Japan provided an $800 million aid and low-interest loan package over 10 years. Japan intended to directly compensate individuals, but the Korean government insisted on receiving the sum itself and "spent most of the money on economic development, focusing on infrastructure and the promotion of heavy industry".

In 1994, the Japanese government set up the public-private Asian Women's Fund (AWF) to distribute additional compensation to South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Indonesia. Sixty one Korean, 13 Taiwanese, 211 Filipino, and 79 Dutch former comfort women were provided with a signed apology from the then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, stating "As Prime Minister of Japan, I thus extend anew my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women." Many former Korean comfort women rejected the compensations on principle – although the Asian Women's Fund was set up by the Japanese government, its money came not from the government but from private donations, hence the compensation was not "official". Eventually, 61 former Korean comfort women accepted 5 million yen (approx. $42,000) per person from the AWF along with the signed apology, while 142 others received funds from the government of Korea. The fund was dissolved on March 31, 2007.

Three Korean women filed suit in Japan in December 1991, around the time of the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, demanding compensation for forced prostitution. In 1992, documents which had been stored since 1958 when they were returned by United States troops and which indicated that the military had played a large role in operating what were euphemistically called "comfort stations" were found in the library of Japan's Self-Defense Agency. The Japanese Government admitted that the Japanese Army had forced tens of thousands of Korean women to have sex with Japanese soldiers during World War II. On January 14, 1992, Japanese Chief Government Spokesman Koichi Kato issued an official apology saying, "We cannot deny that the former Japanese army played a role" in abducting and detaining the "comfort girls," and "We would like to express our apologies and contrition". Three days later on January 17, 1992, at a dinner given by South Korean President Roh Tae Woo, the Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa told his host: "We Japanese should first and foremost recall the truth of that tragic period when Japanese actions inflicted suffering and sorrow upon your people. We should never forget our feelings of remorse over this. As Prime Minister of Japan, I would like to declare anew my remorse at these deeds and tender my apology to the people of the Republic of Korea." He apologized again the following day in a speech before South Korea's National Assembly. On April 28, 1998, the Japanese court ruled that the Government must compensate the women and awarded them US$2,300 (equivalent to $3,453 in 2017) each.

In 2007, the surviving sex slaves wanted an apology from the Japanese government. Shinzō Abe, the prime minister at the time, stated on March 1, 2007, that there was no evidence that the Japanese government had kept sex slaves, even though the Japanese government had already admitted the use of coercion in 1993. On March 27 the Japanese parliament issued an official apology. On February 20, 2014, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the Japanese government may reconsider the study and the apology. However, Prime Minister Abe clarified on March 14, 2014, that he had no intention of renouncing or altering it.

On December 28, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye reached a formal agreement to settle the dispute. Japan agreed to pay ¥1 billion (₩9.7 billion; $8.3 million) to a fund supporting surviving victims while South Korea agreed to refrain from criticizing Japan regarding the issue and to work to remove a statue memorializing the victims from in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. The announcement came after Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met his counterpart Yun Byung-se in Seoul, and later Prime Minister Shinzo Abe phoned President Park Geun-hye to repeat an apology already offered by Kishida. The Korean government will administer the fund for the forty-six remaining elderly comfort women and will consider the matter "finally and irreversibly resolved". However, One of the trusted Korean news organization Hankyoreh expressed that it fails to include the requests from the survivals of sexual slavery about stating the Japanese government’s legal responsibility for the state-level crime of enforcing a system of sexual slavery. It was also managed hasty handling on this crucial issue as previous Korean Government stressed the matter of legal responsibility, but it's removed on the agreement. The South Korean government did not attempt to collect the viewpoints on the issues from the women most directly affected by it -- the survivors themselves. Concerning the review of the rushed deal between two countries, literally, Seoul and Tokyo fail to reach the breakthrough on comfort women issue during the 11th round of Foreign Ministry director-general level talks on 15 Dec 2015. Although the Japanese government and the Park Geun-hye administration claim it is the official, final agreement, several comfort women protested the issue of the agreement as they don't want to money, but they want to see sincere acknowledgement of the legal responsibility by the Japanese government. The co-representative of Support group to surviving women, expressed that the settlement with Japan doesn’t reflect the will of the comfort women, they would vows to seek its invalidation by reviewing legal options.

On February 16, 2016, the United Nations' "Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women", Seventh and Eighth Periodic Reports, was held, with Shinsuke Sugiyama, Deputy Minister for Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), reiterating the official and final agreement between Japan and South Korea to pay ¥1 billion. Sugiyama also restated the Japanese Government apology of that agreement: "The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities."

In Aug 2016, Twelve survivors of sexual enslavement by the Japanese military, filed suit against the government of South Korea, demanding that the government had nullified the victims’ individual rights to claim damages from Japan by signing an agreement not to demand further legal responsibility without consulting with the victims themselves. The deal also violated a 2011 Constitutional Court ruling obliging that the South Korean government “offer its cooperation and protection so that citizens whose human dignity and values have been violated through illegal actions perpetrated by Japan can invoke their rights to demand damages from Japan.”

on 15 June 2018, Seoul Central District Court published the decision, the court announced that the intergovernmental comfort women agreement “certainly lacked transparency or was deficient in recognizing ‘legal responsibility’ and on the nature of the one billion yen provided by the Japanese government.” However, an audit of the process and content leading up to the agreement cannot be seen as discharging the plaintiffs’ right to claim damages.”

On 18 Aug 2018, United Nations rights experts and UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; committee member Gay McDougall expressed that Japan should do more for sufferers of wartime sexual slavery. Mainstream archaeologists state maximum number 200,000 women were forced to serve in Japanese military brothels during World War II, mostly from Korea but also from other countries: China and the Philippines.


The novel My War Crime, written by Seiji Yoshida in 1983, which played a major role in publicizing the issue of comfort women, was later found to be fiction, causing the Asahi Shimbun newspaper to publish several retractions and apologies to its readers, as recently as 2014.

In recent years, a number of Japanese sources have denied or minimized the issue of comfort women.

A 2001 comic book, Neo Gomanism Manifesto Special – On Taiwan by Japanese author Yoshinori Kobayashi, depicts kimono-clad women lining up to sign up for duty before a Japanese soldier. Kobayashi's book contains an interview with Taiwanese industrialist Shi Wen-long, who stated that no women were forced to serve and that the women worked in more hygienic conditions compared to regular prostitutes because the use of condoms was mandatory.

In early 2001, in a controversy involving national public broadcaster NHK, what was supposed to be coverage of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery was heavily edited to reflect revisionist views. In 2014, the new president of NHK compared the wartime Japanese comfort women program to Asian brothels frequented by American troops, which western historians countered by pointing out the difference between the Japanese comfort stations, which forced women to have sex with Japanese troops, and Asian brothels, where women chose to be prostitutes for American troops.

In publications around 2007, Japanese historian and Nihon University professor Ikuhiko Hata estimates the number of comfort women to have been more likely between 10,000 and 20,000. Hata claims that "none of [the comfort women] were forcibly recruited".

In 2012, the former mayor of Osaka and co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party Tōru Hashimoto initially maintained that "there is no evidence that people called comfort women were taken away by violence or threat by the [Japanese] military". He later modified his position, asserting that they became comfort women "against their will", still justifying their role during World War II as "necessary", so that soldiers could "have a rest".

In 2014, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone chaired a commission established to consider "concrete measures to restore Japan's honor with regard to the comfort women issue", despite the conflict of interest that his own father Yasuhiro Nakasone organized a "comfort station" in 1942 when he was a lieutenant paymaster in Japan's Imperial Navy.

International support

The cause has long been supported beyond the victim nations, and associations like Amnesty International are campaigning in countries where governments have yet to support the cause, like in Australia, or New Zealand. Support in the United States continues to grow, particularly after the United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121 was passed on July 30, 2007, asking the Japanese government to redress the situation and to incorporate internationally accepted actual historical facts about this program into their educational system. In July 2012, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a strong advocate of the cause, denounced the use of the euphemism 'comfort women' for what should be referred to as 'enforced sex slaves'. The Obama Administration also addressed the need for Japan to do more to address the issue. In addition to calling attention to the issue, the American memorial statues erected in New Jersey in 2010 and California in 2013 show support for what has become an international cause.

On December 13, 2007, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on "Justice for the 'Comfort Women' (sex slaves in Asia before and during World War II)" calling on the Japanese government to apologise and accept legal responsibility for the coercion of young women into sexual slavery before and during WWII.

In 2014, Pope Francis met with seven former comfort women in South Korea. Also in 2014, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for Japan to, as the Committee's deputy head Anastasia Crickley put it, "conclude investigations into the violations of the rights of ‘comfort women’ by the military and to bring to justice those responsible and to pursue a comprehensive and lasting resolution to these issues". U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay had also spoken out in support of comfort women several times.

Health-related issues

In the aftermath of the war, the women recalled bouts of physical and mental abuse that they had experienced while working in military brothels. In the Rorschach test, the women showed distorted perceptions, difficulty in managing emotional reactions and internalized anger. A 2011 clinical study found that comfort women are more prone to showing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), even 60 years after the end of the war.


The last surviving victims have become public figures in Korea, where they are referred to as "halmoni", the affectionate term for "grandmother". There is a nursing home, called House of Sharing, for former comfort women in South Korea. China remains more at the testimony collection stage, particularly through the China "Comfort Women" Issue Research Center at Shanghai Normal University, sometimes in collaboration with Korean researchers. For other nations, the research and the interaction with victims is less advanced.

After World War II, former Korean comfort women were afraid to reveal their past, because they are afraid of being disowned or ostracized further.

Asahi Shimbun Third-Party Investigative Committee

In August 2014, the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's second largest newspaper in circulation, retracted 16 articles published between 1982 and 1997. The articles were concerned with former imperial army officer Seiji Yoshida, who claimed he had forcibly taken Korean women to wartime Japanese military brothels from the Jeju island region in South Korea. Following the retraction of the articles, the newspaper also refused to publish an op-ed on the matter by Japanese journalist Akira Ikegami. The public response and criticism that ensued pushed the newspaper to nominate a third-party investigative committee headed by seven leading scholars, journalists and legal experts. The committee report dealt with the circumstances leading to the publication of Yoshida's false testimony and to the effect these publications had on Japan's image abroad and diplomatic relations with various countries. It found that the Asahi was negligent in publishing Yoshida's testimony, but that the reports on the testimony had "limited" effect on foreign media outlets and reports. On the other hand, the report found that Japanese officials comments on the issue had a far more detrimental effect on Japan's image and its diplomatic relations.

Memorials and organizations


On December 1, 2015, the first memorial hall dedicated to Chinese comfort women was opened in Nanjing. It was built on a site of former comfort station run by the invading Japanese troops during World War II. The memorial hall stands next to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.

In June 2016, Research Center for Chinese Comfort Women was established at Shanghai Normal University.It is a museum that exhibits photographs and various items related to comfort women in China.

South Korea
Wednesday demonstrations

The bronze statue of a comfort woman in front of the Japanese Embassy, Seoul

Every Wednesday, living comfort women, women’s organizations, socio-civic groups, religious groups, and a number of individuals participate in the Wednesday Demonstrations in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, sponsored by “The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (KCWDMSS)”. It was first held on January 8, 1992, when Japan’s Prime Minister, Miyazawa, visited the South Korea. In December 2011, a statue of a young woman was erected in front of the Japanese Embassy to honor the comfort women on the 1,000th Wednesday Demonstration. The Japanese government has repeatedly asked the South Korean government to have the statue taken down, but it has not been.

On 28 December 2015, the Japanese government claimed that the Korean government agreed the removal of the statue. As of 3 September 2016, the statue was still in place due to a majority of the South Korean population being opposed to the agreement. At the end of 2016, the statue was removed from the original location in Seoul, and re-erected in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan, South Korea. As of 6 January 2017, the Japanese government is attempting to negotiate the removal of the statue. On May 11, 2017, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced the agreement would not be enacted in its current stage and that negotiations for a deal between Japan and South Korea over the comfort women dispute had to start over.

On 14 August 2018, South Korea held an unveiling ceremony for a monument memorializing Korean women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military, as the nation observed its first official "comfort women" memorial day.

House of Sharing
The House of Sharing is a nursing home for living comfort women. The House of Sharing was founded in June 1992 through funds raised by Buddhist organizations and various socio-civic groups and it moved to Gyeonggi-do, South Korea in 1998. The House of Sharing includes “The Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military” to spread the truth about the Japanese military’s brutal abuse of comfort women and to educate descendants and the public.

Archives by comfort women

Some of the survivors, Kang Duk-kyung, Kim Soon-duk and Lee Yong-Nyeo, preserved their personal history through their drawings as a visual archive.Also, the director of the Center for Asian American Media, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, made a comfort women video archive, a documentary film for K–12 through college level students. Feminist visual and video archives have promoted a place for solidarity between the victims and the public. It has served as a living site for the teaching and learning of women's dignity and human rights by bringing people together despite age, gender, borders, nationality, and ideologies.


In the Philippines, comfort women formed different groups, similar to the Korean survivors they are called "Lolas" (grandmothers). One group named "Lila Pilipina" (League of Filipino Women), which started in 1992 and is member of GABRIELA, a feminist organization, together with the Malaya Lolas (Free grandmothers) ask for a formal apology from the Japanese government, compensation, and the inclusion of the issue in the Japanese history textbooks. These groups also ask the Philippine government to back their claims against the Japanese government. These groups have taken legal actions against Japan, then against their own government to back their claims and, as of August 2014, planned to take the case the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Children (CEDAW).

These groups have made demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy in Manila in many occasions, have given testimonies to Japanese tourists in Manila.

Similar to the Korean grandmothers, Filipino "Lolas" have their own Grandmother house with a collection of their testimonies. Also two of them have published two autobiographic books: Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny by Rosa Henson and The Hidden Battle of Leyte: The Picture Diary of a Girl Taken by the Japanese Military by Remedios Felias. This second book was written in the 1990s, after Lila Filipina was formed.

In Bulacan, a villa house Bahay na Pula was seized by Japanese soldiers during WWII and it was used as comfort station where Filipino women were raped and held as comfort women. Today, the empty house is still standing as a memorial for the forgotten Filipino comfort women.


The Ama Museum in Taipei dedicated to Taiwanese comfort women

Since the 1990s, Taiwanese survivors have been bringing to light the comfort woman issue in Taiwanese society, and gaining support from women's rights activists and civil groups. Their testimony and memories have been documented by newspapers, books, and documentary films.

Survivors' claims against the Japan government have been backed by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (TWRF) a non-profit organization helping women against violence, and sexual violence. This organization gives legal and psychological support to Taiwanese comfort women, and also helps in the recording of testimony and doing scholarly research. In 2007, this organization was responsible for promoting awareness in society, by creating meetings in universities and high schools where survivors gave their testimonies to students and the general public. TWRF has produced exhibitions that give survivors the opportunity to be heard in Taipei, and also in the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace, based in Tokyo.

Thanks to this increasing awareness in society, and with the help of TWRF, Taiwanese comfort women have gained the support their government, which on many occasions has asked the Japanese government for apologies and compensation.

In November 2014, "Song of the Reed", a documentary film directed by Wu Hsiu-ching and produced by TWRF, won the International Gold Panda documentary award.

On August 14, 2018, the first 'comfort women' statue in Taiwan was unveiled in the city of Tainan. The statue symbolizes women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military. The bronze statue portrays a girl raising both hands to the sky to express her helpless resistance to suppression and silent protest, according to its creator.

On September 6, 2018, it was reported that Japanese right-wing activist Mitsuhiko Fujii [ja] kicked the comfort woman statue in Tainan.

United States

In 2010, the first American monument dedicated to the comfort women was established in Palisades Park, New Jersey.

In 2013, a "comfort women" memorial statue was established in Glendale, California.The statue has been subject to multiple legal attempts to remove it. A federal judge dismissed a 2014 lawsuit for the statue's removal.

On August 16, 2014, a new memorial statue honoring the comfort women was unveiled in Southfield, Michigan.

In June 2017, Brookhaven, Georgia unveiled a statue memorializing the Comfort Women of World War II.

On September 22, 2017, in an initiative led by the local Chinese-American community, San Francisco erected a privately-funded memorial to Korean activist Kim Hak-sun and the comfort women of World War II. Some Japanese and Japanese-American opponents of the initiative argue the statue would promote hatred and anti-Japanese sentiment throughout the community and object to the statue singling out Japan. Tōru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, Japan, objected that the memorial should be "broadened to memorialize all the women who have been sexually assaulted and abused by soldiers of countries in the world". Supporting the statue, Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed to the San Francisco Holocaust Memorial and the landmarked Japanese internment camps in California as evidence that Japan is "not being singled out". In protest over the statue, Osaka ended the sister city relationship with San Francisco that had been established since 1957. When the city accepted the statue as public property in 2018, the mayor of Osaka sent a 10-page letter to the mayor of San Francisco, complaining of inaccuracies and unfairly singling out Japan for criticism.

A 2010 proposal to create a memorial in Koreatown, Fort Lee, New Jersey, has been controversial and as of 2017 remains undecided.

Notable former comfort women

A number of former comfort women had come forward and spoken out about their plight of being a comfort woman:

Dutch East Indies – Jan Ruff O'Herne (1923–); Ellen van der Ploeg (1923–2013)
Korea – Kil Won-ok [ja] (1928–); Kim Hak-sun (1924–1997); Lee Yong-su (1929–); Song Sin-do (1922–2017); Yoo Hee-nam (1927–)
Philippines – Rosa Henson (1927–97); Remedios Felias (1928–)
Taiwan – Liu Huang A-tao (1923–2011)

Forced marriage
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia .

Criticism about the Azeri forced marriage tradition from early 20th-century satirical periodical Molla Nasraddin

Unequal marriage, a 19th-century painting by Russian artist Pukirev. It depicts an arranged marriage where a young girl is forced to marry against her will.

Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or more of the parties is married without his or her consent or against his or her will. A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage, in which both parties presumably consent to the assistance of their parents or a third party such as a matchmaker in choosing a spouse. There is often a continuum of coercion used to compel a marriage, ranging from outright physical violence to subtle psychological pressure. Forced marriage is still practised in various cultures across the world, particularly in parts of South Asia and Africa. Some scholars object to use of the term "forced marriage" because it invokes the consensual legitimating language of marriage (such as husband/wife) for an experience that is precisely the opposite. A variety of alternative terms exist, including "forced conjugal association" and "conjugal slavery".

The United Nations views forced marriage as a form of human rights abuse, since it violates the principle of the freedom and autonomy of individuals. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that a person's right to choose a spouse and enter freely into marriage is central to his/her life and dignity, and his/her equality as a human being. The Roman Catholic Church deems forced marriage grounds for granting an annulment — for a marriage to be valid both parties must give their consent freely. The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery also prohibits marriage without right to refuse of herself out of her parents', family's and other persons' will and requires the minimum age for marriage to prevent this.

In 1969, the Special Court for Sierra Leone's (SCSL) Appeals Chamber found the abduction and confinement of women for "forced marriage" in war to be a new crime against humanity (AFRC decision). The SCSL Trial Chamber in the Charles Taylor decision found that the term 'forced marriage' should be avoided and rather described the practice in war as 'conjugal slavery' (2012).

In 2013, the first United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against child, early, and forced marriages was adopted; the resolution recognizes child, early, and forced marriage as involving violations of human rights which “prevents individuals from living their lives free from all forms of violence and that has adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, [and] the right to the highest attainable standard of health including sexual and reproductive health", and also states that "the elimination of child, early and forced marriage should be considered in the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda."

Historical context

Marriages throughout history were arranged between families, especially before the 18th century. The practices varied by culture, but usually involved the legal transfer of dependency of the woman from her father to the groom. The emancipation of women in the 19th and 20th centuries changed marriage laws dramatically, especially in regard to property and economic status. By the mid-20th century, many Western countries had enacted legislation establishing legal equality between spouses in family law. The period of 1975-1979 saw a major overhaul of family laws in countries such as Italy, Spain, Austria, West Germany, and Portugal. In 1978, the Council of Europe passed the Resolution (78) 37 on equality of spouses in civil law. Among the last European countries to establish full gender equality in marriage were Switzerland, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, and France in the 1980s.

An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage: in the former, the spouse has the possibility to reject the offer; in the latter, they do not. The line between arranged and forced marriage is however often difficult to draw, due to the implied familial and social pressure to accept the marriage and obey one's parents in all respects.

In Europe, during the late 18th century and early 19th century, the literary and intellectual movement of romanticism presented new and progressive ideas about love marriage, which started to gain acceptance in society. In the 19th century, marriage practices varied across Europe, but in general, arranged marriages were more common among the upper class. Arranged marriages were the norm in Russia before early 20th century, most of which were endogamous. Child marriages were common historically, but began to be questioned in the 19th and 20th century. Child marriages are often considered to be forced marriages, because children (especially young ones) are not able to make a fully informed choice whether or not to marry, and are often influenced by their families.

In Western countries, during the past decades, the nature of marriage—especially with regard to the importance of marital procreation and the ease of divorce—has changed dramatically, which has led to less social and familial pressure to get married, providing more freedom of choice in regard to choosing a spouse.

Historically, forced marriage was also used to require a captive (slave or prisoner of war) to integrate with the host community, and accept his or her fate. One example is the English blacksmith John R. Jewitt, who spent three years as a captive of the Nootka people on the Pacific Northwest Coast in 1802–1805. He was ordered to marry, because the council of chiefs thought that a wife and family would reconcile him to staying with his captors for life. Jewitt was given a choice between forced marriage for himself and capital punishment for both him and his "father" (a fellow captive). "Reduced to this sad extremity, with death on the one side, and matrimony on the other, I thought proper to choose what appeared to me the least of the two evils" (p154).

Forced marriage was also practiced by authoritarian governments as a way to meet population targets. The Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia systematically forced people into marriages, in order to increase the population and continue the revolution.

These marriage ceremonies consisted of no fewer than three couples and could be as large as 160 couples. Generally, the village chief or a senior leader of the community would approach both parties and inform them that they were to be married and the time and place the marriage would occur. Often, the marriage ceremony would be the first time the future spouses would meet. Parents and other family members were not allowed to participate in selecting the spouse or to attend the marriage ceremony. The Khmer Rouge maintained that parental authority was unnecessary because it “w[as] to be everyone’s ‘mother and father.’”

Raptio is a Latin term referring to the large scale abduction of women, (kidnapping) either for marriage or enslavement (particularly sexual slavery). The practice is surmised to have been common since anthropological antiquity.

In the 21st century, forced marriages have come to attention in European countries, within the context of immigration from cultures in which they are common. The Istanbul Convention prohibits forced marriages. (see Article 37).
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery
The 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery defines "institutions and practices similar to slavery" to include:

c) Any institution or practice whereby:
(i) A woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group; or
(ii) The husband of a woman, his family, or his clan, has the right to transfer her to another person for value received or otherwise; or
(iii) A woman on the death of her husband is liable to be inherited by another person;
Istanbul Convention

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, states:

Article 32 – Civil consequences of forced marriages

Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that marriages concluded under force may be voidable, annulled or dissolved without undue financial or administrative burden placed on the victim.

Article 37 – Forced marriage

1 Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the intentional conduct of forcing an adult or a child to enter into a marriage is criminalised.
2 Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the intentional conduct of luring an adult or a child to the territory of a Party or State other than the one she or he resides in with the purpose of forcing this adult or child to enter into a marriage is criminalised.

Causes of forced marriages

There are numerous factors which can lead to a culture which accepts and encourages forced marriages. Reasons for performing forced marriages include: 
strengthening extended family links; 
controlling unwanted behavior and sexuality; 
preventing 'unsuitable' relationships; 
protecting and abiding by perceived cultural or religious norms; 
keeping the wealth in the extended family; 
dealing with the consequences of pregnancy out of wedlock; considering the contracting of a marriage as the duty of the parents; 
obtaining a guarantee against poverty; 
aiding immigration

For victims and society

Early and forced marriages can contribute to girls being placed in a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. Most are likely to experience mistreatment such as violence, abuse and forced sexual relations. This means that women who marry younger in age are more likely to be dominated by their husbands. They also experience poor sexual and reproductive health. Young married girls are more likely to contract HIV and their health could be in jeopardy. Most people who are forced into a marriage lack education and are often illiterate. Young ones tend to drop out of school shortly before they get married.

Legislative consequences

Depending by jurisdiction, a forced marriage may or may not be void or voidable. Victims may be able to seek redress through annulment or divorce. In England and Wales, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 stipulates that a forced marriage is voidable. In some jurisdictions, people who had coerced the victim into marriage may face criminal charges.


Forced marriages are often related to violence, both in regard to violence perpetrated inside the marriage (domestic violence), and in regard to violence inflicted in order to force an unwilling participant to accept the marriage, or to punish a refusal (in extreme cases women and girls who do not accept the marriage are subjected to honor killings).

Relation to dowry and bride price

The traditional customs of dowry and bride price contribute to the practice of forced marriage. A dowry is the property or money that a wife (or wife's family) brings to her husband upon marriage. A bride price is an amount of money or property or wealth paid by the groom (or his family) to the parents of the bride upon marriage.

Marriage by abduction

Marriage by abduction, also known as bride kidnapping, is a practice in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry. Marriage by abduction has been practiced throughout history around the world and continues to occur in some countries today, particularly in Central Asia, the Caucasus and parts of Africa. A girl or a woman is kidnapped by the groom-to-be, who is often helped by his friends. The victim is often raped by the groom-to-be, for her to lose her virginity, so that the man is able to negotiate a bride price with the village elders to legitimize the marriage. The future bride then has no choice in most circumstances, but to accept: if the bride goes back to her family, she (and her family) will often be ostracized by the community because the community thinks she has lost her virginity, and she is now 'impure'. A different form of marital kidnapping, groom kidnapping, occurs in some areas where payment of a dowry is generally expected.

Forced marriage as a way of solving disputes

A forced marriage is also often the result of a dispute between families, where the dispute is 'resolved' by giving a female from one family to the other. Vani is a cultural custom found in parts of Pakistan wherein a young girl is forcibly married as part of the punishment for a crime committed by her male relatives. Vani is a form of forced child marriage, and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders named jirga.

Widow inheritance

Widow inheritance, also known as bride inheritance, is a cultural and social practice whereby a widow is required to marry a kinsman of her late husband, often his brother. It is prevalent in certain parts of Africa. The practice of wife inheritance has also been blamed for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In armed conflict

In conflict areas, women and girls are sometimes forced to marry men on either side of the conflict. This practice has taken place recently in countries such as Syria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Historically, this was common throughout the world, with women from the communities of the war enemy being considered "spoils of war", who could be kidnapped, raped and forced into marriage or sexual slavery. Because women were regarded as property, it seemed reasonable to see them as the chattel of the war enemy, which could now be appropriated and used by the winner.

Forced marriage by partner

Forced marriage can occur in the situation where in an unmarried couple, one partner forces (through violence or threats) the other partner to enter the marriage.

Escaping a forced marriage

Ending a forced marriage may be extremely difficult in many parts of the world. For instance, in parts of Africa, one of the main obstacles for leaving the marriage is the bride price. Once the bride price has been paid, the girl is seen as belonging to the husband and his family. If she wants to leave, the husband may demand back the bride price that he had paid to the girl's family. The girl's family often cannot or does not want to pay it back.

UK citizens escaping forced marriage abroad are forced to pay their repatriation costs or get into debt. This makes escaping a forced marriage harder.

Sharia law

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said: 
"A non-virgin woman may not be married without her command, and a virgin may not be married without her permission; 
and it is permission enough for her to remain silent (because of her natural shyness)." [Al-Bukhari:6455, Muslim & Others]

It is reported in a hadith that A'ishah related that she once asked the Prophet : "In the case of a young girl whose parents marry her off, should her permission be sought or not?" He replied: "Yes, she must give her permission." She then said: "But a virgin would be shy, O Messenger of Allaah!" He replied: "Her silence is [considered as] her permission." [Al-Bukhari, Muslim, & Others]

It appears that the permission of an under-age bride is indeed necessary for her marriage to be considered valid. Despite the fact that this opinion is held only by a minority of classical scholars, the above narrations seem to clearly make the approval of the bride a condition for a valid marriage contract.

The contract of an Islamic marriage is concluded between the guardian (wali) of the bride and bridegroom, not between bridegroom and bride if she is virgin but her permission is still necessary. The guardian (wali) of the bride can only be a free Muslim.

Shotgun wedding
A shotgun wedding is a form of forced marriage occasioned by an unplanned pregnancy. Some religions and cultures consider it a moral imperative to marry in such a situation, based on reasoning that premarital sex or out-of-wedlock births are sinful, not sanctioned by law, or otherwise stigmatized. Giving birth outside marriage can, in some cultures, trigger extreme reactions from the family or community, including honor killings.

The term "shotgun wedding" is an American colloquialism, though it is also used in other parts of the world. It is based on a hyperbolic scenario in which the pregnant (or sometimes only "deflowered") female's father resorts to coercion (such as threatening with a shotgun) to ensure that the male partner who caused the pregnancy goes through with it, sometimes even following the man to the altar to prevent his escape. The use of violent coercion to marry was never legal in the United States, although many anecdotal stories and folk songs record instances of such intimidation in the 18th and 19th centuries. Purposes of the wedding include recourse from the male for the act of impregnation and to ensure that the child is raised by both parents as well as to ensure that the woman has material means of support. In some cases, a major objective was the restoring of social honor to the mother.

Shotgun weddings have become less common as the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has gradually faded and the number of such births has increased; the increasing availability of birth control and abortion, as well as material support to unwed mothers, such as Elterngeld, child benefits, parental leave, and free kindergartens have reduced the perceived need for such measures.

By country


Forced marriage is prevalent in Madagascar. Girls are married off by their families, and often led to believe that if they refuse the marriage they will be "cursed" In some cases, the husband is much older than his bride, and when she becomes a widow, she is discriminated and excluded by society.


According to Human Rights Watch, Malawi has "widespread child and forced marriage" and half of the girls marry before 18. The practice of bride price, known also as lobolo, is common in Malawi, and plays a major role in forced marriage. Wife inheritance is also practiced in Malawi. After marriage, wives have very limited rights and freedoms; and general preparation of young girls for marriage consists in describing their role as that of being subordinated to the husband.


Forced marriage in Mauritania takes three principal forms: forced marriage to a cousin (known as maslaha); forced marriage to a rich man for the purpose of financial gain; and forced polygamous marriage to an influential man.


In 2018 a law went into effect known as the Hakkaoui law because Bassima Hakkaoui drafted it; among other things it includes a ban on forced marriage. But it was criticized for requiring victims to file for criminal prosecution to get protection.


Forced marriage is common in Niger. Niger has the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world; and also the highest total fertility rate. Girls who attempt to leave forced marriages are most often rejected by their families and are often forced to enter prostitution in order to survive Due to the food crisis, girls are being sold into marriage. Balkissa Chaibou is known as one of the most famous activists against forced marriage in Niger. Chaibou was 12 when she was informed by her own mother that she was to be married to her cousin, and when she was 16, she took to the courts. With little success, Chaibou was forced to a women's shelter before she was finally able to go home where she learned of her parents changed views on forced marriage, that they were now against it.

South Africa

In South Africa, ukuthwala is the practice of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage, often with the consent of their parents. The practice occurs mainly in rural parts of South Africa, in particular the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The girls who are involved in this practice are frequently under-aged, including some as young as eight. The practice received negative publicity, with media reporting in 2009 that more than 20 Eastern Cape girls are forced to drop out of school every month because of ukuthwala.

The Gambia

In 2016, during a feast ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced that child and forced marriages were banned.

Compensation marriage

Compensation marriage, known variously as vanni, swara and sang chatti, is the traditional practice of forced marriage of women and young girls in order to resolve tribal feuds in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although illegal in Pakistan, it is still widely practiced in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.


Forced marriage is very common in Afghanistan, and sometimes women resort to suicide to escape these marriages. A report by Human Rights Watch found that about 95% of girls and 50% of adult women imprisoned in Afghanistan were in jail on charges of the "moral crimes" of "running away" from home or zina. Obtaining a divorce without the consent of the husband is nearly impossible in Afghanistan, and women attempting a de facto separation risk being imprisoned for "running away". While it is not socially acceptable for women and girls to leave home without permission, "running away" is not defined as a criminal offense in the Afghan Penal Code. However, in 2010 and 2011, the Afghan Supreme Court issued instructions to courts to charge women with "running away" as a crime. This makes it nearly impossible for women to escape forced marriages. The Human Rights Watch report stated that

According to the UN, as of 2008, 70 to 80 percent of marriages in Afghanistan were forced, taking place without full and free consent or under duress. Another study found that 59 percent of women had experienced forced marriage.


Forced marriage remains common for Kurdish girls in Iran and is also one of the major reasons for self-immolation in Iran. UNICEF’s 1998 report found extremely high rates of forced marriage, including at an early age, in Kordestan in Iran, although it noted that the practice appeared to be declining. Kurdish cultural norms which facilitate the practice of forced and child marriage perpetuate the fear of violence amongst Kurdish girls in Iran.


As in other parts of South Asia, girls in Nepal are often seen as an economic burden to the family, due to dowry. Parents often compel young girls to marry, because older and more educated men can demand a higher dowry. In 2009, the Nepalese government decided to offer a cash incentive (50,000 Nepali rupees - $641) to men for marrying widowed women. Because widows often lose social status in Nepalese society, this policy was meant to 'solve' their problems. However, many widows and human rights groups protested these regulations, denouncing them as humiliating and as encouraging coerced marriages.

Sri Lanka

During the Sri Lankan Civil War, a 2004 report in the journal Reproductive Health Matters found that forced marriage in Sri Lanka was taking place in the context of the armed conflict, where parents forced teenage girls into marriage in order to ensure that they do not lose their chastity (considered an increased risk due to the conflict) before marriage, which would compromise their chances of finding a husband.


In 2011 the family ministry of Germany found that 3000 people were in forced marriages, nearly all from migrant families and most (83.4%) from Muslim families by querying help bureaus. These figures exceeded the estimates of help organisation Terre des Femmes, which up until then had estimated that about one thousand migrant women sought help annually. More than half of the women had experienced physical abuse and 27% were threatened with weapons or received death threats. Of the victims, 30% were 17 years old or younger. 31.8% were from Germany, 26.4% from Asia, 22.2% from Turkey and 5,6% from Africa. In 2016 the German ministry of the interior found that 1475 children were in forced marriages. Of those 1474, 1100 were girls, 664 were from Syria, 157 were afghans and 100 were Iraqis.

United Kingdom

Forced Marriage Unit, UK

Forced marriages can be made because of family pride, the wishes of the parents, or social obligation. For example, according to Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, many forced marriages in Britain within the British Pakistani community are aimed at providing British citizenship to a member of the family currently in Pakistan to whom the instigator of the forced marriage feels a sense of duty. In response to the problem of forced marriages among immigrants in the UK, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 (applicable in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland) was passed, which enables the victims of forced marriage to apply for court orders for their protection. Similar legislation was passed in Scotland: the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 gives courts the power to issue protection orders.

In 2008, it was estimated that about 3000 forced marriages took place each year.

In June 2012 the British Government, under Prime Minister David Cameron, declared that forced marriage would become a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. In November 2013 it was reported that a case was brought before the High Court in Birmingham by local authority officials, involving a then 14-year-old girl who was taken to Pakistan, forced to marry a man ten years her senior and two weeks later forced to consummate the marriage with threats, resulting in pregnancy; the court case ended with Mr Justice Holman saying he was powerless to make a "declaration of non-recognition" of the forced marriage, since he was prevented by law from granting a declaration that her marriage was "at its inception, void". Mr Justice Holman said that the girl, now 17, would have to initiate proceedings herself to have the marriage nullified. British courts can also issue civil orders to prevent forced marriage, and since 2014 refusing to obey such an order is grounds for a prison sentence of up to five years.

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 makes forcing someone to marry (including abroad) a criminal offence. The law came into effect in June 2014 in England and Wales and in October 2014 in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 criminalises forced marriage (section 16 - Offence of forced marriage).

In July 2014, the United Kingdom hosted its first global Girl Summit; the goal of the Summit was to increase efforts to end child marriage, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation within a generation.

The first conviction for forced marriage in the United Kingdom occurred in June 2015, with the convicted being a man from Cardiff, who was subsequently sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Of the cases recorded by the government's Force Marriage Unit, run jointly between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office, the majority involved South Asia communities, with 37% linked to Pakistan, 11% linked to Bangladesh and 7% linked to India. About 30% involved victimes below the age of 18.


Schools in Skåne in the southern part of report that they discover that about 25 youth are forced to marry annually due them being part of a shame society. An investigation by government organisation Ungdomsstyrelsen reported that 70 000 youth perceived they were unfree in their choice of spouse.

In July 2016 an Afghani man in Sweden was sentenced to 4 years in prison for forcing his daughter to marry someone in Afghanistan and sexually molesting her Swedish boyfriend in the first Swedish sentence.


Although forced marriage in Europe is most often associated with the immigrant population, it is also present among some local populations, especially among the Roma communities in Eastern Europe.

The UK Forced marriage consultation, published in 2011, found forcing someone to marry to be a distinct criminal offence in Austria, Belgium, Turkey, Denmark, Norway and Germany. In 2014 it became a distinct criminal offence in England and Wales.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence defines and criminalizes forced marriage, as well as other forms of violence against women. The Convention came into force on 1 August 2014.

In November 2014 UCL held an event, Forced Marriage: The Real Disgrace, where the award-winning documentary Honor Diaries was shown, and a panel including Jasvinder Sanghera CBE (Founder of Karma Nirvana), Seema Malhotra MP (Labour Shadow Minister for Women), and Dr Reefat Drabu (former Assistant General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain) discussed the concept of izzat (honour), recent changes in UK law, barriers to tackling forced marriage, and reasons to be hopeful of positive change.

The Americas
Forced marriage may be practised among some immigrant communities in Canada. Until recently, forced marriage has not received very much attention in Canada. That lack of attention has protected the practice from legal intervention. In 2015, Parliament enacted 2 new criminal offences to address the issue. Forcing a person to marry against their will is now a criminal offence under the Criminal Code, as is assisting or aiding a child marriage, where one of the participants is under age 16. There has also been the long-standing offence of solemnizing an illegal marriage, which was also modified by the 2015 legislation.

In addition to these criminal offences, the Civil Marriage Act stipulates: Marriage requires the free and enlightened consent of two persons to be the spouse of each other, as well as setting 16 as the minimum age for marriage.

United States

Estimates are that hundreds of Pakistani girls in New York have been flown out of the New York City area to Pakistan to undergo forced marriages; those who resist are threatened and coerced. The AHA Foundation has commissioned a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to research the incidence of forced marriage in New York City. The results of the study were equivocal. However, AHA has successfully referred numerous individuals seeking help in fleeing or avoiding a forced marriage to qualified service providers and law enforcement. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime Conference, there are "limited laws/policies directly addressing forced marriage", although more general non-specific laws may be used. The organization Unchained at Last, the only organization of its kind in the United States, assists women in forced or arranged marriages with free legal services and other resources. It was founded by Fraidy Reiss.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) has been suspected of trafficking underage women across state lines, as well as across the US–Canada and US–Mexico borders, for the purpose of sometimes involuntary plural marriage and sexual abuse. The FLDS is suspected by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police of having trafficked more than 30 under-age girls from Canada to the United States between the late 1990s and 2006 to be entered into polygamous marriages. RCMP spokesman Dan Moskaluk said of the FLDS's activities: "In essence, it's human trafficking in connection with illicit sexual activity." According to the Vancouver Sun, it's unclear whether or not Canada's anti-human trafficking statute can be effectively applied against the FLDS's pre-2005 activities, because the statute may not be able to be applied retroactively. An earlier three-year-long investigation by local authorities in British Columbia into allegations of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and forced marriages by the FLDS resulted in no charges, but did result in legislative change.


Child Marriage (2008-2014):

Country Married by 15 Married by 18 Source
Afghanistan - 33% Living Conditions Survey 2013-2013
Albania 0% 10% DHS 2008-2009
Algeria 0% 3% MICS 2012-2013
Armenia 0% 7% DHS 2010
Azerbaijan 2% 11% DHS 2011
Bangladesh 18% 52% MICS 2012-2013
Barbados 1% 11% MICS 2012
Belarus 0% 3% MICS 2012
Belize 3% 26% MICS 2011
Benin 11% 32% DHS 2011-2012
Bhutan 6% 26% MICS 2010
Bolivia 3% 22% DHS 2008
Bosnia and Herzegovina 0% 4% MICS 2011-2012
Brazil 11% 36% PNDS 2006
Burkina Faso 10% 52% DHS 2010
Burundi 3% 20% DHS 2010
Cabo Verde 3% 18% DHS 2005
Cambodia 2% 19% DHS 2014
Cameroon 13% 38% DHS 2011
Central African Republic 29% 68% MICS 2010
Chad 29% 68% MICS 2010
Colombia 6% 23% DHS 2010
Comoros 10% 32% DHS 2012
Congo 6% 33% DHS 2011-2012
Costa Rica 7% 21% MICS 2011
Côte d'Ivoire 10% 33% DHS 2011-2012
Cuba 5% 26% MICS 2014
Democratic Republic of the Congo 10% 37% DHS 2013-2014
Djibouti 2% 5% MICS 2006
Dominican Republic 10% 37% DHS 2013
Ecuador 4% 22% ENDEMAIN 2004
Egypt 2% 17% DHS 2014
El Salvador 5% 25% FESAL 2008
Equatorial Guinea 9% 30% DHS 2011
Eritrea 13% 41% Population and Health Survey 2010
Ethiopia 16% 41% DHS 2011
Gabon 6% 22% DHS 2012
Gambia 9% 30% DHS 2013
Georgia 1% 14% RHS 2010
Ghana 5% 21% DHS 2014
Guatemala 7% 30% ENSMI 2008/2009
Guinea 21% 52% DHS 2012
Guinea-Bissau 7% 22% MICS 2010
Guyana 6% 23% DHS 2009
Haiti 3% 18% DHS 2012
Honduras 8% 34% DHS 2011-2012
India 18% 47% NFHS 2005-2006
Indonesia - 14% National Socio-Economic Survey (SUSENAS) 2013
Iran 3% 17% MIDHS 2010
Iraq 5% 24% MICS 2011
Jamaica 1% 8% MICS 2011
Jordan 0% 8% DHS 2012
Kazakhstan 0% 6% MICS 2010-2011
Kenya 4% 23% DHS 2014
Kiribati 3% 20% DHS 2009
Kyrgyzstan 1% 12% MICS 2014
Lao People's Democratic Republic 9% 35% MICS 2011-2012
Lebanon 1% 6% MICS 2009
Lesotho 2% 19% DHS 2009
Liberia 9% 36% DHS 2013
Macedonia 1% 7% MICS 2011
Madagascar 12% 41% ENSOMD 2012-2013
Malawi 9% 46% MICS 2013-2014
Maldives 0% 4% DHS 2009
Mali 15% 55% MICS 2010
Marshall Islands 6% 26% DHS 2007
Mauritania 14% 34% MICS 2011
Mexico 5% 23% ENADID 2009
Mongolia 0% 5% MICS 2010
Montenegro 1% 5% MICS 2013
Morocco 3% 16% DHS 2003-2004
Mozambique 14% 48% DHS 2011
Namibia 2% 7% DHS 2013
Nauru 2% 27% DHS 2007
Nepal 10% 37% MICS 2014
Nicaragua 10% 41% ENDESA 2006
Niger 28% 76% DHS 2012
Nigeria 17% 43% DHS 2013
Pakistan 3% 21% DHS 2012-2013
Panama 7% 26% MICS 2013 KFR
Papua New Guinea 2% 21% DHS 2006
Paraguay - 18% RHS 2004
Peru 3% 19% Continuous DHS 2014
Philippines 2% 15% DHS 2013
Qatar 0% 4% MICS 2012
Republic of Moldova 0% 12% MICS 2012
Rwanda 1% 8% DHS 2010
Saint Lucia 1% 8% MICS 2012
Samoa 1% 11% DHS 2014
São Tomé and Príncipe 5% 34% DHS 2008-2009
Senegal 9% 32% Continuous DHS 2014
Serbia 0% 3% MICS 2014
Sierra Leone 13% 39% DHS 2013
Solomon Islands 3% 22% DHS 2007
Somalia 8% 45% MICS 2006
South Africa 1% 6% DHS 2003
South Sudan 9% 52% SHHS 2010
Sri Lanka 2% 12% DHS 2006-2007
State of Palestine 1% 15% MICS 2014
Sudan 7% 33% SHHS 2010
Suriname 5% 19% MICS 2010
Swaziland 1% 7% MICS 2010
Syrian Arab Republic 3% 13% MICS 2006
Tajikistan 0% 12% DHS 2012
Thailand 4% 22% MICS 2012
Timor-Leste 3% 19% DHS 2009
Sex 6% 22% DHS 2013-2014
Tonga 0% 6% DHS 2012
Trinidad and Tobago 2% 8% MICS 2006
Tunisia 0% 2% MICS 2011-2012
Turkey 1% 15% DHS 2013
Turkmenistan 1% 7% MICS 2006
Tuvalu 0% 10% DHS 2007
Uganda 10% 40% DHS 2011
Ukraine 0% 9% MICS 2012
United Republic of Tanzania 7% 37% DHS 2010
Uruguay 1% 25% MICS 2013
Uzbekistan 0% 7% MICS 2006
Vanuatu 3% 21% DHS 2013
Viet Nam 1% 11% MICS 2014
Yemen 9% 32% DHS 2013
Zambia 6% 31% DHS 2013-2014
Zimbabwe 4% 34% MICS 2014


Region Married by 15 Married by 18 Note
Sub-Saharan Africa 12% 39%

Eastern and Southern Africa 10% 36%

West and Central Africa 14% 42%

Middle East and North Africa 3% 18%

East Asia and Pacific - 15% Excluding China
Latin America and Caribbean 5% 23%

CEE/CIS 1% 11%

Least developed countries 13% 41%

Activists and women famous for refusing forced marriage
Nojoud Ali
Balkissa C

अंतिम देवदासी

सदियों से हिन्दू मंदिर, जो कि ईश्वर के निवास स्थान बताए जाते हैं, पुजारियों और ऊँची जातियों के ‘तीर्थ यात्रियों’ द्वारा असहाय महिलाओं के यौन शोषण के केन्द्र रहे हैं

By A.K. Biswas एके विस्वास On February 18, 2016 मंदिरों को समर्पित देवदासियों का महिमामंडन, भले ही ईश्वर की सेविका के रूप में किया जाता रहा हो, परंतु असल में वे वेश्याएं हुआ करतीं थीं। देश के कई भागों में हिंदू मंदिरों में देवदासियां थीं और उन्हें मंदिरों का अभिन्न अंग माना जाता था। वे, दरअसल, इसलिए रखी जातीं थीं ताकि वे मंदिरों के पंडे-पुजारियों और उन रईसों, जो वहां तीर्थयात्रा के बहाने आते थे, की शारीरिक जरूरतों को पूरा कर सकें। ये महिलाएं लोगों को मंदिरों की ओर आकर्षित करतीं थीं और मंदिरों की लोकप्रियता बढ़ाती थीं। पुरी के जगन्नाथ मंदिर, गुजरात के सोमनाथ मंदिर और यहां तक कि तमिलनाडु के मंदिरों में भी देवदासियां होती थीं।

मार्च में एक अखबार में प्रकाशित रपट में कहा गया है कि देश की आखिरी देवदासी शशिमणि, जो कि जगन्नाथ मंदिर से जुड़ी हुईं थीं, की मृत्यु हो गई है। इसके साथ ही, इस शर्मनाक प्रथा का अंत हो गया है। फ्रेंकोइस बर्नियर (1620-1688) एक फ्रांसीसी चिकित्सक व यात्री थे। मुगल भारत की यात्रा का उनका विवरण, उस समय के इतिहास के बारे में जानने का महत्वपूर्ण स्त्रोत माना जाता है। वे शाहजहां के सबसे बड़े पुत्र शहजादा दाराशिकोह के व्यक्तिगत चिकित्सक थे और दाराशिकोह की मौत के बाद, वे औरंगजेब के दरबार से लगभग एक दशक तक जुड़े रहे। उन्होंने पुरी की यात्रा की थी। बर्नियर के अनुसार, हर साल पुरी में रथयात्रा के पहले भगवान जगन्नाथ का विवाह एक नई युवती से किया जाता था। विवाह की पहली रात, मंदिर का कोई एक पुजारी उसके साथ संभोग करता था।

शशिमणि मार्च 1912 में बंगाल की विधान परिषद में छोटा नागपुर संभाग का प्रतिनिधित्व करने वाले बालकृष्ण सहाय ने ”बच्चियों को पुरी के जगन्नाथ मंदिर को समर्पित करने की प्रथा’’ का मुद्दा उठाते हुए कहा कि, ”बड़े होने के बाद वे अनैतिक जीवन जीती हैं’’। उन्होंने सरकार से मांग की कि वह इस ”अनैतिक प्रथा का उन्मूलन’’ करने के लिए हस्तक्षेप करे (बंगाल विधान परिषद की कार्यवाही खंड 34)। औपनिवेशिक सरकार ने अपनी नीति के अनुरूप, परिषद को बताया कि वह ”हिंदू समाज द्वारा पुरी की व्यवस्था से जुड़ी बुराईयों का उन्मूलन करने के किसी भी संगठित प्रयास का अनुमोदन करेगी और उसे अपना समर्थन देगी।’’

ब्रिटिश शासकों ने ”धर्म से जुड़े मसलों में सुधार के लिए कोई स्वस्फूर्त प्रयास’’ करने से साफ इंकार कर दिया। ”द न्यूयार्क ट्रिब्यून’’ के 8 अगस्त, 1853 के अंक में छपे अपने लेख में कार्ल माक्र्स ने भारत की ब्रिटिश सरकार पर आरोप लगाते हुए कहा कि ”वह ऐसा नहीं करना चाहती, क्योंकि वह उड़ीसा और बंगाल के मंदिरों में बड़ी संख्या में पहुंचने वाले तीर्थयात्रियों और जगन्नाथ मंदिर में चलने वाले हत्या और वेश्यावृत्ति के व्यापार से धन कमाना चाहती है’’ (माक्र्स एंड एंजिल्स, सिलेक्टिड वक्र्स, खंड 1)। यह कोई झूठा आरोप नहीं था बल्कि तथ्यों पर आधारित झिड़की थी। इसके 74 साल बाद, सन् 1927 में, मोहनदास करमचंद गांधी ने यही बात कही: ”मुझे यह कहते हुए बहुत शर्मिंदगी महसूस होती है कि हमारे देश के कई मंदिर वेश्यालयों से अलग नहीं हैं’’ (‘यंग इंडिया’ 6 अक्टूबर 1927)। ‘द हिंदू’ अखबार ने 15 सितंबर 1927 को गांधीजी को उद्धृत करते हुए लिखा, ”उनको देवदासियां कहकर हम धर्म के पवित्र नाम पर ईश्वर अपमान करते हैं और अपनी इन बहनों का अपनी वासना पूर्ति के लिए उपयोग कर हम दोगुना अपराध करते हैं…।’’

मंदिरों में पल रही इन विकृतियों को उजागर करने वाले केवल कार्ल माक्र्स ही नहीं थे। 19वीं सदी में हुगली (अब पश्चिम बंगाल) के तारकेश्वर मंदिर के आसपास ढेर सारे वेश्यालय थे। इस अत्यंत समृद्ध तीर्थस्थल के महंत माधवचंद्र गिरी, अपने गुंडों का इस्तेमाल कर सीधी-साधी महिलाओं को अगवा करने, बहलाने-फुसलाने और उनकी खरीद-फरोख्त करने के लिए कुख्यात थे। ”ये महिलाएं अपने परिवारों के पास वापस नहीं जा सकती थीं और उनके पास इसके सिवा और कोई रास्ता नहीं बचता था कि वे तारकेश्वर के आसपास स्थित वेश्यालयों में अपना जीवन बिताएं। सन 1873 में अखबार, पुरी और तारकेश्वर मंदिरों के पंडों के कुत्सित कारनामों के विवरण से भरे रहते थे…तारकेश्वर, महिलाओं के गैरकानूनी व्यवसाय का केन्द्र था’’, तनिका सरकार, ”हिंदू वाईफ, हिंदू नेशन : कम्युनिटी, रिलीजन एंड कल्चरल नेशनलिज्म’’ में लिखती हैं। सन् 1871 की जनगणना के अनुसार, हुगली जिले में असम, बिहार, उड़ीसा और बंगाल के सभी जिलों से ज्यादा संख्या में वेश्याएं थीं। केवल 24 परगना जिले में वेश्याओं की संख्या हुगली से ज्यादा थी। बंगाल, बिहार और उड़ीसा के धनी जमींदार, पुरी आते रहते थे और उनके इरादे कतई पवित्र नहीं होते थे। कई जमींदार दो-तीन महिनों तक पुरी में रहते थे और उनकी यात्रा पर लाखों रूपये खर्च होते थे। इस खर्च की वसूली के लिए वे गैरकानूनी चुंगी या अबवाव (जैसे हतभरा महाप्रसाद व बारून्निस्नान) लगाते थे। ये बातें उड़ीसा के बालासोर जिले के कलेक्टर जॉन बीम्स ने बंगाल सरकार को 1871 में भेजी अपनी एक रिपोर्ट में कही।

सिफलिस का सड़ांध मारता दलदल अपनी पुस्तक ”अनहैपी इंडिया’’ (1927) में स्वाधीनता संग्राम के साहसी योद्धा लाला लाजपतराय ने यह पता लगाने का काफी श्रमसाध्य प्रयास किया है कि आखिर सिफलिस भारत कैसे पहुंचा। यह रोग इस क्षेत्र में नहीं उपजा था। चिकित्सा के तत्कालीन जानेमाने अध्येता डॉ. अवान ब्लोच को उद्धृत करते हुए लाला लिखते हैं, ”सिफलिस, कोलंबस के नाविकों के जरिये 1494 व 1495 में स्पेन पहुंचा। इसे वे लोग मध्य अमरीका, विशेषकर हैती द्वीप समूह, से स्पेन लाए थे। स्पेन से यह चाल्र्स सप्तम की सेना के साथ इटली पहुंच गया, जहां इसने महामारी का रूप ग्रहण कर लिया। बाद में इस सेना को तोड़ दिया गया और सैनिक इस रोग को अपने साथ यूरोप के अन्य देशों में ले गये। इसे पुर्तगाली सुदूरपूर्व – भारत, चीन और जापान – में लाए।’’ अपनी मौलिक कृति ”द द्रविडिय़न एलिमेंट इन इंडियन कल्चर’’ में गिल्बर्ट स्लेटर बताते हैं कि किस प्रकार मद्रास से 300 किलोमीटर दूर स्थित कुंभकोणम नगर के देवदासियों से भरे 12 महान मंदिरों के पुजारियों ने अपनी पत्नियों को सिफलिस से ग्रस्त कर दिया था।

इससे साफ होता है कि इस रोग के मुख्य ‘सरंक्षक’ उच्च जाति के श्रेष्ठीवर्ग के सदस्य थे, जिनकी मंदिरों तक पहुंच थी। आज भी नीची जातियों के लोग मंदिरों में प्रवेश नहीं कर सकते हैं।

परन्तु अंग्रेजों को मंदिरों की वेश्याओं का भोग करने का मौका कैसे मिला? सेरामपोर के विलियम वार्ड नामक एक मिशनरी ने भारत के सांस्कृतिक इतिहास के इस लगभग अल्पज्ञात पक्ष पर प्रकाश डाला है। ‘हिस्ट्री, लिटरेचर एंड माइथोलॉजी ऑफ द हिंदूज खंड 2’ में वे लिखते हैं, ‘कांजीवरम में एक टूटा-फूटा शिव मंदिर था, जिसे ठीक करवाने की कोई फिक्र नहीं कर रहा था। एक अँगरेज अधिकारी ने (ईस्ट इंडिया) कंपनी को मंदिर का पुनर्निर्माण करवाने के लिए राजी कर लिया एवं खुद भी इस हेतु धनराशि दान की’। इससे निश्चित रूप से कंपनी को मंदिर के कर्ताधर्ताओं की कृतज्ञता और कंपनी के अधिकारियों को मंदिर के गर्भगृह तक पहुँच हासिल हो गई होगी। प्रारंभ में, कंपनी के अधिकारी अपनी पत्नियों को अपने साथ भारत नहीं लाते थे और मंदिरों की देवदासियों से अपनी शारीरिक भूख मिटाते थे। मंदिरों के पुजारी और ब्रिटिश अधिकारी दोनों देवदासियों से सम्भोग करते थे और इस तरह, पंडे-पुजारियों ने अपनी पत्नियों को सिफलिस का रोगी बना दिया।

सन 1803 में, कम्पनी द्वारा उड़ीसा पर कब्जा करने के बाद, जगन्नाथ मंदिर के पुजारियों ने उसका प्रबंधन अंग्रेजों को सौंप दिया। इस हस्तांतरण की शर्तों के अनुसार, मंदिरों के पुजारियों व देवदासियों सहित सभी कर्मचारियों को कंपनी, मंदिर के कोष से वेतन देती थी। यह सिलसिला सन 1841 तक चला, जब कम्पनी ने मंदिर के प्रबंधन से अपने हाथ खींच लिए। पुरी आने वाले तीर्थयात्रियों से रुपये 2 से रुपये 10 प्रति व्यक्ति प्रवेश शुल्क वसूला जाता था। एक बांग्ला पत्रिका (ब्रिजेंद्रनाथ बंदोपाध्याय, ‘सम्बाद्पत्रे सेकालेर कथा’ अंक 2) ने 1831 में खुलासा किया कि 17 सालों में, राजस्व अधिकारियों ने तीर्थयात्रियों से 9,92,050 रुपये (अर्थात रू 58,355 प्रति वर्ष) वसूले। सन 1997 में 16 दिसंबर को, शशिमोनी और पारसमोनी नामक दो देवदासियों (जिन्हें उडिय़ा में महारी कहा जाता है) ने ‘ओडीसी विजऩ एंड मूवमेंट सेंटर’ के तत्वावधान में कलकत्ता में सार्वजनिक रूप से नृत्य प्रदर्शन किया। एक मीडिया रिपोर्ट (बैजयंती रे, ‘ब्राइड्स ऑफ द लार्ड’, द एशियन ऐज, कलकत्ता) में उन्हें यह कहते हुए उद्धत किया गया कि ‘हमारा जन्म उच्च वर्गीय कायस्थ परिवारों में हुआ था और हमें महारियों ने उनकी तरह बनाने के लिए गोद ले लिया था। ‘

दक्षिण भारत की योगिनियाँ ईश्वर के नाम पर शोषण का अंतहीन सिलसिला जारी है। दक्षिण भारत के राज्यों में, अनुसूचित जातियों की युवा स्त्रियाँ, वर्चस्वशाली समुदाय के सदस्यों की वेश्या के रूप में सेवा करती हैं। सन 2007 में ‘एंटी-स्लेवरी इंटरनेशनल’ ने कर्मकांडी सेक्स गुलामी या जबरिया धार्मिक ‘विवाह’ पर एक अध्ययन किया था। इस अध्ययन से यह सामने आया कि 93 प्रतिशत देवदासियां और योगिनियाँ अनुसूचित जातियों से और सात प्रतिशत अनुसूचित जनजातियों से थीं। जाहिर है कि यह कुप्रथा उन अनेक तरीकों में से एक है, जिनका इस्तेमाल वर्चस्वशाली जातियां अपना सामाजिक रुतबा और आर्थिक प्राधान्य बनाये रखने के लिए करती हैं। जो लड़कियां देवदासी या योगिनी बनती हैं, वे विवाह नहीं कर सकतीं और समाज उन्हें नीची निगाहों से देखता है। योगिनियों के बच्चों का जीवन नरक हो जाता है क्योंकि कोई उनका पिता होना स्वीकार नहीं करना चाहता।

भारत में भेदभाव, सामाजिक यथार्थ का हिस्सा है। उससे श्रेष्ठी और शासक वर्ग को कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता। योगिनी प्रथा को समाप्त करने से ईश्वर का प्रकोप लोगों पर होगा, यह भय दिखाकर शक्तिशाली, वर्चस्ववादी जातियों के निहित स्वार्थी तत्व इस कुत्सित परंपरा को जीवित रखने का प्रयास कर सकते हैं।

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