Our HIV/AIDS Center
in the southern Indian state of Karnataka seeks to address the issue of ritual sex slavery or Devadasi.
Devadasis are dedicated to a goddess when they are as young as five years old, and then forced into ritualised prostitution when they reach puberty. The occurrence of HIV/AIDS in Karnataka is three times the national average. The prevalence of the Devadasi system in the state is a significant factor in this.
These women are often not offered treatment, counselling or any relief. Of the three thousand cases of HIV/AIDS among Devadasis, only 20% are currently being treated. Our HIV/AIDS Centre has been set up in response to this need, and is now operating in the rural areas where most of the Devadasis can be found.
The AIDS center aims to reduce the incidence and transmission of HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) among the Devadasi population by providing medical treatment including diagnosis, testing and treatment. This is part of a holistic approach including counselling and a range of practical initiatives to enable women and girls to leave the Devadasi system.
These include: providing microloans and skills-training to enable women to earn a livelihood; community-based care and support; nutritional supplementation programmes; awareness-raising activities. Restoring dignity and respect is a key part of this.