For over 2,000 years, thousands of girls have been illegally forced into ritual sex slavery. Girls are dedicated to the goddess Yellamma in a marriage-like ceremony and thereafter known as Joginis.
They are dedicated and ‘initiated’ without their consent, and usually have no knowledge of what becoming a Jogini will involve. After reaching puberty she becomes the property of the village and can be used by any man, anywhere, anytime; and is trapped in a life of sexual servitude.
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 Joginis. Sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and ill-health are rife, mental health issues and depression are rampant and dignity is non-existent. They are stigmatised and abused physically, sexually, emotionally and financially. Most are illiterate, struggle with substance abuse and live in extreme poverty.
Watch the video below to hear about Nagamma, one of the many women whose life was changed and brought out of an abusive and threatening environment.
Jayamma* was 7 when her father told her she was to be a Jogini. He could not afford a dowry for her, and he needed someone to look after him in his old age. The solution was to dedicate Jayamma to the temple goddess.
The entire village attended the ceremony, yet Jayamma had no idea what was in store.
When she reached puberty, Jayamma found herself trapped in a horrendous cycle of systemic sexual abuse.
By the time Jayamma was thirteen years she was pregnant, but as she had been used by most of the men in her village she had no idea of the father’s identity.
In her 20s, Jayamma became sick, and as she approached thirty her health declined. Her uncle had died from AIDS, and had ‘used’ Jayamma for many years. Increasingly unhealthy and feeling worthless, life became unbearable.
We met Jayamma through our Prevention and Awareness Programme, helping her to understand her rights and entitlements, and arranged an HIV test where she was diagnosed as HIV positive. Our team helped her access treatment and provided tailoring training to enable her to earn a living.
It is early days, but Jayamma’s life is beginning to change for the better.