Saturday, March 14, 2009

The redeemer of animal instincts

Shivering with fear she ran to the police station and knelt on the feet of the police officer on duty pleading:

“Master please save me; please help me to live like any other human being. Please don’t allow me to become a prostitute”.

She has somehow escaped from a prominent brothel. She could not go back. Her lover, a factory worker has come forward to marry her. She wants to get married and live as a housewife. The police inspector presented her in the court. It was to the wedding stage that she went from the court. Several prostitutes of the red street and the rich later made vain attempts to bring back the dancing queen who ran away. When bidding farewell to the red street, her main concern was about her younger sister who was undergoing learning dance in those streets.

Both anthropologists and historians opine that prostitution is a profession dating back to the very dawn of mankind. Though prostitution is not a guilt that could be unilaterally attributed just to one of the two parties, the first human being, Adam himself had manifested the character of passing the responsibility of the guilt to the woman. The Marxian explanation that poverty is the reason for prostitution doesn’t match with the developmental history of mankind. It might be a little relief from poverty, the reason for a woman selling her body to a man temporarily. But the fact is that the man who uses her is guided only by sexual urge.

Extramarital relationships were not considered a sin during the primitive days when there were no restrictions on sexual indulgence. Gradually it became impossible for man to go on living unsystematically by eating whatever he gets, stay at wherever he likes and mate with anyone. Faith in God, religion and priests, social inequalities based on race and caste differences became an integral part of human life. Marriage became an inevitable custom in men-women relationships in society. Each one, according to his strength started to have any number of women as possible for his sexual needs. Polygamy became so widespread. The system of private ownership of property, dynastic rule and upper class supremacy helped a few to establish their dominance in society. Opulent religious heads liberally added manure to this evil. The priestly rank which encouraged prostitution as a profession under the shade of religion cultivated the same which was booming around temples as a money spinning art. Those days it was not at all a crime to trade virginity for earning money for dowry. The only condition was that it should be within the temple premises that the pet goddesses be pleased by indulging in prostitution. They handover the income earned through this way to a man and later get married to him.

It is well known that the main income of the Babylonian, Greek and Indian temples were the revenue earned by Devadasis and dancers through selling their body.

According to Herodotus woman who find shelter in the premises of the temple of Isthar in Babylonia were obliged to have sexual intercourse with anybody who throws money into her lap. The same was the situation in Cyprus and Greece. The woman who was just a slave to man in earlier days didn’t have any voice or individuality of her own. Even St Paul had not allowed women to appear in public places and address public gatherings. She was obliged to be mutely subservient to the husband.

Jesus Christ who publicly stated that it was not fair to accuse women alone in cases of adultery argued for a compassionate attitude towards prostitutes even as he despised adultery quite strongly. However St Paul, who came to the centre stage as the disciple of Christ condemned prostitutes and taught that celibacy was the greatest virtue. What he advised was to have a woman as wife only as a last resort to refrain from adultery.

Though Moses had prohibited Jewish women from prostitution during the Old Testament days, there was no law during those days for him to ban men from approaching outside women for sexual needs. Though prostitutes were not allowed inside temples, there were huge settlements of prostitutes on both sides of the entrances of temples. In the bible it is said that the priests who indulged in sex with these women were punished by God. Even in developed countries what we could invariably find is a religious set up which encouraged prostitution in one form or other.

The situation in India had been somewhat different. Prostitutes were given a higher status in society while there were special rules and a social security system in place exclusively for them as prescribed by Kautilyan’s “Arthasasthra”. Divine prostitution which sprouted under the shade of Buddhist enclaves and Hindu temples spread throughout the country by the 6th and 7th centuries. By the 11th century, in South India comprising of Kerala, Devadasis and court dancers had become just the means of sexual entertainments of the ruling class. Since they were given as offerings to Gods and were to liberally mingle with those who were at the higher levels of the society, they enjoyed a reputed status in the society. These beautiful women who were excelled in fine arts like music and dance used to earn accolades in royal durbars and cultural forums.

According to historians, In the Vijayanagar King Krishnadevarayan’s royal chamber of women there were over 10000 beautiful women and the most prominent among being Devadasis. Of the two prominent queens of Krishandevarayan, the top status was for a Devadasi named Chinnadevi. The statues of Krishnadevarayan and Chinnadevi can still be seen in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. For the masses, she was a goddess.

Elamkulam Kunjan PIllai, a researcher of history says that Cherukuttathi, the beloved wife of 14th century Odanadu King, was a Devadasi.

Marco Polo who visited Kerala during the later years of 13th century describes about a topless King who were adorned with jewellery all over his body. He had about 100 women as wives and concubines. He also had won over the wife of his own brother and the latter had not taken it serious at all!

The legal wives of these rulers could in no way dissuade their husbands who were bent on encouraging these beautiful and highly educated women. The priestly class and native rulers used to perpetuate their own rules and superstitions to justify their wrong activities and secure blessings from landlords and Brahmin chiefs. Since sighting a prostitute was considered a good omen, the Indian women who were the symbols of faithfulness did not dare to bring bad luck in their family life by dissuading their husbands who set out every morning to “have a look at prostitutes”.

Brahmin widows were once exempted from committing “Sathi” on the condition that they will learn the techniques of sexual enticing and give their bodies only to Brahmins and upper class for sexual pleasure. Since there was no other alternative other than opting for divine prostitution as a way of life or else jumping into the funeral pyre of their husbands, young widows of those days had to spend the rest of their lives as prostitutes in the premises of temples! What turned these women as Devadasis was neither the religious faith nor relief from poverty, but natural instinct for survival and their sexually dissatisfied past. The priestly class and the rich were cleverly exploiting the hapless condition of these women for their sexual pleasure. It was on the basis of certain doctrines approved under the label of God and religion that women were subjected to sexual exploitation in Europe too. Though celibacy advocated by St Paul was well recognized, the religious heads who were bound to follow the same were leading a diametrically opposite personal life. The ashrams and convents of these pious communities of unmarried persons who were expected to lead a dedicated life immersed in divine worship eventually became notorious for sexual anarchy. In England, France, Spain and Portugal, the convents and parsonage attached to churches turned into houses of sin. Pope Gregory the 8th was prominent among the very few Popes who fought this social evil. But in the pretension of complying with his commands and restrictions, the clergy were leading a fraudulent life. In the book titled “History of Inquisition” the innumerable shocking and shameful pictures of the sinful life of the bishops and priests of those days can be seen. The archbishops who took their daughters as concubines and took youths of their infatuation as partners after ordaining them as priests acted as the spokespersons of the celibacy of the clergy. It was the gulf between their preaching and practice that led to religious reformation and the advent Protestantism. The Book titled “The History of European Morals says that many of the medieval convents were nothing but brothels. The feticides and infanticides taken place within the walls of these convents were said to be innumerable!

The Canterbury (England) Abbot had as many as 17 illegal offsprings while another in Spain had over 70 concubines. The Bishop of Lig had 65 children through numerous wives. In Italy, young women who approach a priest for confession could get salvation from her sins only if they shared bed with him.

Given below is how one 15th century Dominican monk named Savanarola publicly accused the degenerated way of life of the European religious heads. “When the night comes, one finds a seat near the table of gamblers. Another one leaves to the house of his concubine. They are deeply immersed in shamefully wrong acts. They neither have faith or goodness. All the priests have concubines. In Rome this poison is brimming. And it has now spread to France, Germany and other parts of the World.

The sentries of Christian Church managed to protect morality by charring to death Savnarola after conducting a trial in the presence of papal representative! But by the 17th century the rulers of Europe and England were compelled to change their policy. They hanged to death adulterers and imprisoned prostitutes after torturing them with lashes. Brothels were razed to the ground. But the “guardians of morality” set up night clubs for “society ladies and women artistes”.

In Spain and Portugal, the protectors and ultimate authority of religion was the Kings. When they set out in search of lovers in the suburbs of the city, the priests and Knights slept in the royal chambers of women. Those who were not willing to submit to their wishes were branded as devil’s children and even burned alive. They indulged in sexual excesses with the least botheration as to whether the victims were daughters, mothers or sisters. According to historians, there were more than a lakh prostitutes staying just for the sexual needs of the clergy. Today in big Indian cities only such a huge number of women engaged in prostitution can be fund if a correct statistics is taken.

What described in the beginning of this article was an incident occurred recently occurred in the North Indian city of Ujjain. Thousands of women who took to prostitution for a living in the major cities of India certainly have a lot of shameful stories of their life to tell the world. But nobody is ready to heed with compassion.

Where is the beginning of this evil? How prostitutes are born? Where did prostitution first start? We are yet to find out correct answers to these questions. This age old profession continues to be encouraged everywhere under the garb suited to the changing social and political climates. What needed is to approach the basic reasons of prostitution through a humanitarian and social view point accepting that from the beginning of the world man’s centre of attraction has always been women and man has always been the refuge of woman. Providing better disease prevention methods and better treatment centers are not enough. Before despising those who have gone astray what needed to be done is to eradicate the circumstances that caused their steps to falter.

In this respect, the service taken up by Sunny Kulathakkal through the book “The World of Prostitutes” is invaluable and moreover highly commendable.

(The preface written for the book “The World of Prostitution’)

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