Sukumari Bhattacharji tracks prostitution in ancient India in an essay in the book -Women in early Indian Societies.
This scholar is working with ancient reference materials; she cites some 100 odd references and notes. She culls words which might mean prostitute, gathers texts which might indicate the economics, the family structure, the position of women then, and is also inferring from all this, the possible reasons leading to the origin of prostitution in India, since the time when written texts were available. Continue reading →
Recently, while discussing the ART Draft bill 2008 with a prof, specifically the possibility of exploitation of Indian women in surrogacy arrangements, I confessed to her that I am haunted by images of girls, who in the future may be raised to be only surrogate mothers…….. she asked, “like Atwood’s handmaids?” I blinked my ignorance at her, and said I’ll read up. In Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s tale;
Atwood posits a future Republic of Gilead run by a conservative Christian dictatorship. As a result of exposure to chemicals, nuclear waste and other pollutants, female fertility rates have fallen to catastrophically low levels, so the government forces fertile women to go to reeducation camps. There they are trained as handmaidens, sexual surrogates for powerful men with infertile wives. Infertile women are sent to clean up toxic wastes or are trained as Marthas, household servants. Female sexuality is completely forbidden, indeed most sexual expression that does not serve the Republic’s purposes, including pornography, homosexuality, etc., is banned; sex is permitted for reproductive purposes only.
The novel was also made into a movie, here is a short video:
The images of women in my mind do have the same role, however, I had superimposed them on Indian cults, unfortunately not relegated to bygone memories. The mathamma’s, devadasi and jogi cults form the basis of the repugnant images in my mind; A future where, a community of young healthy Indian women are relegated the role of child bearing for wealthy, too busy and maybe sterile Western clientele.
How did the cult of Mathamma’s originate? Who decided they will be available for sexual services of any male wishing to avail it? Who sanctified these rituals? How did her family become convinced to let their child become a sexual tool for the world, while giving away all her rights? Who gave the right to anybody to take away the girls right to dream, to study, to play, to marry, to live life like any other Indian girl? How perverse is the Indian society that these practices continue even today?
Try answering these questions with surrogacy in mind; a booming powerful industry, a Government showing signs of wanted a piece of the pie and little else, an apathetic public and you have a modern version of such a cult based on womb service. One, where young healthy women will be trapped into only playing the role of surrogacy, much like Atwoods Handmaids, maybe I should have titled this post ARTmaids.
Our society still houses conditions where women live this horrific lives defined by exploitation, like the mathamma, devadasi and jogini’s, for having a female body, being poor and ignorant.
Why will such a society NOT create a community or cult for young girls to be raised as surrogate mothers?
Yes, considerable time is going in raising awareness about a ghost that might not appear, but I would rather call wolf now, than latter. Please read, watch and feel for these women and understand that prevention is much easier than undoing an evil. In the past, readers have commented that such practices occur only in remote parts of India, probably true, the Mathammas however, belong to a community that is spread over Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, some of them live in large cities like Chennai. Ban or no ban these practices continue in front of our eyes, but enlightened Indians choose to be blind and believe that all is well with our world. Yes, it is, just not so for our fellow citizens. And in our continued blindness, we will become mute spectators to the exploitative elements inherent in our society take advantage of these unchanged conditions and combine it with the money spinning oppurtunity that ART provides.