Young girls abused in south Indian temple rituals — rights commission

Hindu devotees hold earthen oil lamps as they offer prayers to celebrate the Aadi Krithigai festival at a temple in the southern Indian city of Chennai. (REUTERS/Babu/File photo)
Updated 26 September 2017
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Young girls abused in south Indian temple rituals — rights commission

CHENNAI, India: The practice of keeping young girls in village temples to be worshipped as goddesses as part of rituals in south India amounts to abuse and slavery, the national rights commission said.
The rituals in which girls are dressed as brides and then “their dresses are removed, virtually leaving them naked” is a form of the banned devadasi system, the National Human Rights Commission said in a report published on Monday.
Practiced in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and parts of western India, the devadasi system, which “dedicates” girls to a life of sex work in the name of religion, continues despite being outlawed in 1988.
“They are denied to live with their families and have education. They are forced to live in Mathamma temples, deemed to be ... public property and face sexual exploitation,” the commission said in a statement.
The report was referring to a 15 day festival in parts of Tamil Nadu, which concluded on Tuesday, where local goddesses are worshipped and seven young girls are chosen by the community to stay in the temple.
The state government has denied accusations of abuse.
“Our child protection team has visited the temple in question and parents are there to take care of the girls,” said K Veera Raghava Rao, the administrative head of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu.
“These are 200 year old traditions that are practiced in many village temples across the region. We have not found any case of abuse and our officials are monitoring the functions. We have asked them to cover the girls with a shawl.”
But campaigners said that in the name of tradition, hundreds of girls between the ages of seven and 10 years are made to stay in the temple premises during the festivities.
These girls, or Mathammas as they are referred to in parts of Tamil Nadu, are then forbidden to marry and must earn their living by dancing at the Hindu temples.
In some cases young girls being initiated into the practice have to be bare-chested with only garlands and jewels covering them, while in others they are made to carry pots of liquor as part of the celebrations, child rights campaigners added.
“As you travel through the region, the names keep changing, but the fact is that women are being forced into prostitution in the name of rituals,” said Priyamvada Mohan Singh, a criminology professor who carried out a survey in 2016 on the devadasi tradition for the Indian government.
“The tradition exists in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. We have documented many cases during our research.”
The National Human Rights Commission said the practices violated the children’s rights and asked both the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh governments to respond in four weeks.


MGM sues Vegas shooting victims in push to avoid liability

Updated 9 min 35 sec ago
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MGM sues Vegas shooting victims in push to avoid liability

  • The company argues in lawsuits that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims
  • Victims with active lawsuits against MGM don’t face the company’s legal claim

LAS VEGAS: MGM Resorts International has sued hundreds of victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history in a bid to avoid liability for the gunfire that rained down from its Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas.
The company argues in lawsuits filed in Nevada, California, New York and other states this week and last that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The lawsuits target victims who have sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims or have threatened to sue after a gunman shattered the windows of his Mandalay Bay suite and fired on a crowd gathered below for a country music festival.
High-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more last year before killing himself. Victims with active lawsuits against MGM don’t face the company’s legal claim.
MGM says the 2002 law limits liabilities when a company or group uses services certified by the US Department of Homeland Security and mass attacks occur. The company says it is not liable because its security vendor for the concert, Contemporary Services Corp., was federally certified at the time of the Oct. 1 shooting.
MGM claims the victims — through actual and threatened lawsuits — have implicated CSC’s services because they involve concert security, including training, emergency response and evacuation.
“If defendants were injured by Paddock’s assault, as they allege, they were inevitably injured both because Paddock fired from his window and because they remained in the line of fire at the concert. Such claims inevitably implicate security at the concert — and may result in loss to CSC,” according to the MGM lawsuits.
CSC’s general counsel, James Service, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it doesn’t comment on litigation involving the company or a third party.
MGM wants a court to declare that the US law “precludes any finding of liability” against the company “for any claim for injuries arising out of or related to Paddock’s mass attack.”
Brian Claypool, an attorney who was at the music festival during the shooting, called the lawsuits a “hypocritical maneuver” that will turn into a “public relations nightmare for MGM.”
“We collectively view this as a bullying tactic to intimidate the survivors who are rightfully seeking social change and redress through the litigation process,” Claypool, who represents dozens of victims, said in a statement.
MGM spokeswoman Debra DeShong said Congress determined that federal courts should handle any lawsuits over mass attacks where federally certified security services were provided.
“While we expected the litigation that followed, we also feel strongly that victims and the community should be able to recover and find resolution in a timely manner,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Attorney Robert Eglet, who represents victims in a lawsuit pending in federal court in Nevada, also decried the casino operator’s move, saying the company is filing complaints nationwide in search of a sympathetic judge. He told AP he has been flooded with calls from victims.
“This is absolute gamesmanship. It’s outrageous. It’s just pouring gasoline on the fire of (the victims’) suffering,” Eglet said. “They are very distraught, very upset over this. MGM is trying to intimidate them.”