Charity Working With Indian Government to End 'Jogini' Sex Slavery Ritual – Hope 103.2

Charity Working With Indian Government to End ‘Jogini’ Sex Slavery Ritual

Charitable aid organisation Dignity Freedom Network said rescuing of one Jogini woman means their whole family will be rescued. They are about to host their annual fundraising dinner – online again due to pandemic restrictions.

By Amy ChengTuesday 14 Sep 2021Social Justice

An illegal and horrendous practice in India that forces young women into sex slavery still continues today, but one organisation is working to change that.

Reader discretion is advised. The following article includes content about sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse.

Dignity Freedom Network (DFN), a charitable aid organisation, has been working with the Indian Government to put this practice to an end.

CEO Kay* said the practice was made illegal over 30 years ago and DFN began with advocacy to frame laws that were prosecutable.

“In 2015, those were ratified in the states where the practice happens,” she told Hope 103.2.

“Once they were in place, we could go into the villages and say to the village leaders ‘did you know, actually the practice is illegal?’.”

This also enabled DFN to approach women enslaved by the practice and empower them to leave.

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Jogini is a centuries-old practice where girls as young as six years old are dedicated as a Jogini in a marriage-like ceremony.

Jogini is a centuries-old practice where girls as young as six years old are dedicated as a Jogini in a marriage-like ceremony.

A family, usually extremely poor, may marry off their daughters because they believe the ritual will appease the gods and improve their lives.

When a girl is chosen to be a Jogini, a big ceremony is held and they are dedicated to a temple goddess.

“They have a necklace tied around their neck, they wear beautiful clothes and have flowers in their hair,” Kay said.

“All of a sudden, they feel like their world has changed into something special; so they have no idea what all this means, and not much changes in their life until they hit puberty.”

At this point, they enter a life of ritualised sexual abuse, Kay said.

“Any man in the village can use her and abuse her and she’s just known as the property of the village,” she said.

“When you rescue the one or prevent the dedications of the one, you actually impact a whole family and eventually a whole community,” – Kay, CEO of DFN

Impact of the pandemic

DFN has rescued many Jogini women from slavery, however, the pandemic has complicated its rescue efforts.

“Last year, we actually saw quite a lot of our Jogini women die in the first wave in India,” Kay said.

DFN ramped up its efforts to protect and educate these women throughout November to March.

“In the second wave, not one of our Jogini women died,” Kay said.

Community health workers in the villages taught the women about the importance of hygiene, building up their bodies with supplements, and seeking medical care at the first signs of illness.

“Not only did they survive but their whole communities came out of the second wave in a far healthier way than most of the rural areas in India,” Kay said.

Rescue efforts

To help rescue Jogini women out of slavery, DFN equips former Jogini women.

“[The Jogini are] dealing with people who speak their local language and who look like them, who aren’t blond haired, blue-eyed Westerners,” Kay said.

DFN works with the women it rescues, providing healthcare and support, particularly investing in those that show leadership capacity.

“They’re the ones who go back into their village and they’re the ones who connect and talk to other Jogini women and explain that it’s illegal and help them leave the practice,” Kay said.

“They’re also the ones who see or hear on the grapevine that there’s going to be a dedication.”

The rescue of one Jogini woman also means their family will be rescued.

“It’s not just rescuing the one; when you rescue the one or prevent the dedications of the one, you actually impact a whole family and eventually a whole community,” Kay said.

“This is actually a practice we believe can come to a complete end,” – Kay, CEO of DFN

Annual dinner

DFN is inviting people to attend its annual “Hope for the Jogini Girls Dinner”, which is being livestreamed online again this year due to restrictions.

Attendees will hear stories from some of the Jogini women, watch an interview with the head of the anti-human trafficking project and listen to guest singer Silvie Paladino.

Kay said DFN’s goal is to see this practice come to a complete end.

“We don’t want to see a revolving door of this one’s dedicated and rescued, so they’ll take another girl,” she said.

“Because we’re working with the Indian Government and it is already illegal in India… this is actually a practice we believe can come to a complete end.”

Dinners will be held on Friday 17, Saturday 18 and Thursday 23 September. Registrations are now open.

*Name has been changed