This is painful, but please don’t look away.
For over 2,000 years, hundreds of thousands of girls have been forced into ritual sex slavery in India. Girls as young as 4 years old are dedicated in marriage-like ceremonies and thereafter known as Joginis. 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.
Why would a family do this? Because they feel they have no choice. They are trapped financially and need money to pay for life-saving medical treatments so that Mom can continue to work. Or because they are so in debt to loan sharks for things like food and housing, they have no other option to save their family. Even more disturbing, a family forces this on their daughter because they desperately want the blessing from the gods of the temple to solve their financial woes. It’s unthinkable, but please don’t look away.
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 Joginis in India today, even though it’s been declared illegal since 1988. (Yes, you read that correctly, 1988, not 1888.) Sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and poor health run rampant. Mental health issues and depression are widespread. These ladies are stigmatized and abused physically, sexually, emotionally and financially. Most are illiterate, struggle with substance abuse and live in extreme poverty, all factors that keep them trapped in a life without dignity and without freedom.
But we don’t believe anyone should live this way. So we have Freedom Fighters and healthcare workers to rescue and rehabilitate these broken and used up sweet sisters. Recovery is a long road, but it is possible and we walk with them every step of the way.
Increasing our Child Sponsorship efforts is the best way to prevent such atrocities in the life of young women. Sponsorship not only provides an education, but also puts them in the protection of the school community. The student and the family receive support to provide nutrition, healthcare, and job training.
We cannot all be on-the-ground Freedom Fighters, but we can all do something.
Don’t look away. Sisters like Nira are counting on you.