Life as a jogini is unbearably hard - many young girls find themselves trapped, alone, stigmatised and forced to have sex with any man who wants it. This is the story of Pushpa and how she is finally experiencing what it means to be free
When she was just 11 years old, Pushpa’s parents, living in the slums of India and desperately poor, decided to have their daughter dedicated as a Jogini (a temple prostitute); selling her to the temple meant that they would have one less mouth to feed and they would no longer have to pay out a huge dowry on her wedding day.
Although outlawed in India in 1998, the practice of dedicating Joginis is still prevalent in the southern States of India today and there are around 23,000 Jogini in Karnataka state.
Used by men
During the dedication ceremony the girl is ‘given’ to a village elder – a priest, landowner or other wealthy man; when he gets tired of her the girl becomes the property of the village, to be used by any man, anytime, anywhere. Pushpa was ‘given’ to her uncle.
At first, her uncle treated her kindly, more like a second wife. But gradually his attitude towards her hardened, he became abusive and threw Pushpa out. By this time, Pushpa had a young son – the uncle denied that the boy was anything to do with him.
Alone and vulnerable, Pushpa had no choice but to accept visits from many of the male villagers; she was, after all, a Jogini, so they felt entitled to use her as they saw fit.
Leaving her old life
But Pushpa’s life was about to change for the better. A project supported by The Freedom Challenge heard about Pushpa and her son. The project team have rescued many women in similar situations, so they knew they could help her.
With their help, Pushpa has started a vocational training course, her son is enrolled in school, and she is leaving the shackles of her old life behind her. She is incredibly grateful for the new life she has received; a life that is so much better than anything she could have imagined.