The Devadasi system is an ancient Hindu tradition in parts of southern India, where parents in the name of religion devote a daughter to a life of sex work for community members from the upper classes. A 14-year-old Kamala was also prepared by her own parents to enter the system, but the young girl was rescused in time. Read her story below.
The Devadasi tradition is a profitable venture for many poor families. The men who have sex with Devadasi girls are praised instead of punished, and the money paid to the family is used to buy food and let other children of the family go to school. This tradition of sexual exploitation prevents young girls from having a carefree youth, as they so richly deserve. The prospect of a successful future is thereby minimized.
Kamala was only 14 years old when she was being prepared by her parents to have such destiny. Both Kamala’s mother and grandmother are also a Devadasi woman up to her 50 years of age. This traditional chain is an adverse form of sexual exploitation preventing young girls from having a normal childhood like other children, and from reaching their potentials to become more successful in life.
In February 2017, Terre des Hommes’ local partner in India established and trained a social group in Kamala’s village to raise awareness of the risks of this religious practice. The group is also the eyes-and-ears to spot and stop any dedication of young girls by their parents. Only two months later, Kamala’s case was found out by the social group, and they immediately intervened along with the supports of officials from the department of women and child development and police. Kamala was rescued and her parents stopped the dedication ceremony.
With tears in her eyes, Kamala says, "I'm so glad I'm escaping a future as a prostitute." Kamala is now enrolled back to 8th grade at the local high school. She is also a member of young adolescent girls and receives training by the social group on the issues related to sexual abuse and exploitation, to empower the girls to stand up for their rights and fight against Devadasi system practice in their own community.
"I will study hard and become an agent of change for Devadasi families."