September 28, 2017
Madurai: People’s Watch, a Madurai-based human rights organisation, has sought the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in stopping the practice of pre-pubescent girls being paraded without upper garments and 7 of them made to stay in a temple as part of an annual festival of Yezhaikaatha Amman Temple at Vellalur in the district.
In a complaint sent to the human rights panel, People’s Watch Executive Director Henri Tiphagne urged the commission to instruct the Madurai Collector to ensure the non-recurrence of such a practice of exposing the school-going girls in the stage of attaining puberty in an inappropriate manner and confining them in the temple for a fortnight.
Tiphagne also sought action against all the village heads responsible for conducting the festival and penal action against school authorities for their negligence in allowing the violation to continue as they have been absent from school for the past over 10 days.
“This is a gross violation of not only right to life, liberty and dignity falling under the definition of human right under section 2 (d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, but also negligence in active prevention of violation by public servants, including district social welfare officer and revenue officials concerned, who failed to ensure that the girls were properly clothed,”Tiphagne said.
The fact-finding team commissioned by People’s Watch said the officials told that the girls wore shawls and they have a photograph of they wearing shawls. “This was obviously only to satisfy an official enquiry but the offence continued right under the nose on September 26, (the main day of the festival),” the human rights activist said.
While the team, according to him, called all the officials to the spot, none was willing to come because they feared that any interference would cause law and order problem since the festival was organised by a dominant community. When the Collector was informed about it, he had reportedly told the team that the members of the probe committee constituted by him had spoken to the village people but they did not obey their rules.
People’s Watch demanded that the Collector, SP, Chief Education Officer, District Elementary Education Officer and District Child Protection Unit should be asked to give an undertaking that they would conduct special awareness for the members of the community and in schools till the time of the next festival to stop the continuation of this inhuman practice. They should get a written assurance using the provisions of law to ensure that the practice of using semi-clad girls should not be followed henceforth, Tiphagne urged.
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