Deuki is an ancient custom practiced in the far western regions of Nepal in which a young girl is offered, by their parents, to the local temple in the hope of gaining religious merit. The young girls sometimes are bought by others for the same purpose. These young girls then are no longer related to their earthly parents and dedicate their life to the Gods and the temple. They are fit to serve until they reach the age of puberty.
Deuki girls have to endure the hardship during their lifetime, until their puberty period, they make their living out of the offerings made by the worshipers and cannot have support other than the offerings. Once they are left at the temple in the midnight with foli (water pot) on the girls’ head, they are on their own. After they reach the age of puberty, it is believed that sex with the deuki brings the good fortune. Since, they are unfit for marriage after offered to the temple and they have no other financial assistance they are driven to survival sex, to sell their bodies as means of making living.
There is a story behind the emergence of this practice. Around 17th century, the Doti state of Nepal faced several problems like natural calamities and epidemics. Some religious priests suggested that if the king of Doti, Nagi Malla, offered his daughter to the temple of Bageshor Mahadev, the problem would be solved. After offering his daughter to the temple, she spent her entire life there.
The practice of deuki has been formally abolished by the Nepalese government. Despite this fact, girls continue to become deukis. The bill has been passed which states that each and every act that promotes discrimination and violence against women in the name of religion and customs will be considered a punishable offense. However, the number of deuki has increased between 1992 and 2010. The actual number of deuki today is uncertain as statistics are unavailable.
The Government of Nepal has been active to eradicate such tradition. Also, NGOs such as Jandesh have worked to successfully rehabilitate many Deukis by teaching them “skills in the sewing, stitching, cattle farming, cottage and beauty industries, providing literacy classes” and getting their children into schools. For older deukis, however, change is more difficult. Government programs and NGOs are less invested in their rehabilitation, so they receive less assistance.
There is Jhuma pratha which is similar to this Deuki pratha which is practiced in Muktinath. In this age of science and technology we are still lagging the strength to incapacitate the negative aspects of culture from our society. Only we choose to bring the change , we can be a better Nepalese and, above all, a better human.