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.
many women are forced into ritual sex work as ‘Devadasis’ or ‘Joginis’, as they are called in this region. Almost always from the Dalit community, these women are often dedicated to the goddess Yellama as young girls, consigning them to a life as beggars and sex workers, usually once from puberty. They generally live in poverty, are frequently subject to abuse, and are at great risk from sexually transmitted diseases like HIV / AIDs. Often, their children suffer the same fate if girls.
Pratigya operates in a hundred villages in Telangana, in which the practice is still common. By raising awareness of the illegality and dangers of the Jogini system, this project has prevented numerous young girls being dedicated as Joginis, helped other women to leave ritual sex slavery, breaking the cycle.
The project has been successful by identifying and supporting local community leaders – primarily former Joginis – to deliver the awareness programme in their areas, counseling local families against dedications, explaining the various government health and education programmes that are available to them, and engaging in advocacy on behalf of Joginis.
In addition, Pratigya raises awareness on a higher level through media and advocacy work. In particular, our legal team is taking action to challenge the lack of initiative by authorities to enforce existing legislation preventing dedications, and support justice for those who wish to pursue remedy through the courts.
This project is groundbreaking in its approach and will gradually be expanded across Andhra Pradesh and other states, with the aim of breaking the chains of this abhorrent and exploitative system.
Donate directly to fund the Jogini Prevention and Awareness Programme using the following links:
for income generation, many Jogini women are unable to leave behind sex work, even when they want to. Often impoverished and uneducated, it is hard for them to find alternative employment, and they are often shunned in any case.
Pratigya’s Economic Empowerment programme seeks to fill this gap by providing a variety of opportunities for Joginis and their families to make a livelihood. These include:-
in Telangana is a specialised facility designed to prevent Dalit children being sold for sex when they reach puberty and be condemned to a lifetime of exploitation and poverty.
The children’s shelter provides the daughters (or grandaughters) of Joginis with a safe and healthy place to live, a nutritious diet, access to quality education, and most importantly a loving and caring environment. This not only removes them from extreme vulnerability and poverty in their home village, but provides them with skills and knowledge to make a living so that they do not have to resort to prostitution.
Girls are only admitted to the program with the full and willing consent of their mothers. They have access to private tutors, healthcare, social workers, mental health evaluation, as well as a place in a Dalit Education Center or vocational training programme.
We currently house around twenty girls, ranging from just three years old to fifteen.
The cost to running the shelter is about $50,000 USD or £32,000 GBP per year. Donate directly to Pratigya Children’s Shelter, using the following links:
to both prevent sex trafficking and provide rehabilitation to those who have been exploited, trafficked or forced into sex work.
The centre is located in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Tarika provides accommodation and rehabilitation for women and girls who have been rescued from exploitation, particularly from sex trafficking. This includes women who were dedicated to be Devadasis, or ‘temple prostitutes’, still a widespread practice in Karnataka. The Centre facilitates counselling and tutoring for either school work or vocational skills, dependent on the age and situation of residents. Between six and ten women and girls can be accommodated at any one time.
The other main aspect of the Centre’s work is offering vocational and skills training for up to a hundred women, many of them from slum areas. These are among the most vulnerable to exploitation. They can participate in courses of between three and twelve months in duration in sewing and embroidery, IT, beautician skills, spoken English and other subjects. Job opportunities are accessed through networking with local entrepreneurs and businesses.
Although gaining new skills is an attractive proposition, a key element in Tarika’s approach is to build confidence in women who have often been marginalised and abused. Counselling is also available for these women, along with tutoring for older girls to encourage them to stay in school.
The cost to run the centre is about $100,000 USD or £64,000 GBP per year. Donate directly to the Tarika Centre, using the following links: