The 12-month pilot began in earnest at the end of January, with an ‘awareness camp’ to 50,000 people attending a religious festival in rural Andhra Pradesh. Traditionally, the Jatara festival is where young Dalit girls are dedicated to the goddess Yellama, little realising the lifetime of ritualised prostitution that will be forced upon them once they reach puberty. Indian staff from our Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) worked with former Joginis, handing out leaflets, speaking to crowds through loudspeakers, and striking up conversations to raise awareness about the Jogini system. This included information about the law prohibiting Jogini dedications, consequences for girls who are dedicated, and the various government schemes that are available to help Joginis leave the system.
Such camps will be supported by raising awareness door-to-door and through meetings in one hundred villages in a district where it is believed that, on average, every other day another girl is dedicated as a Jogini. Working with community leaders and committee members representing some 5000 Joginis, the aim is to train a leader in all one hundred villages who will organise activities to stop more girls being dedicated, and to fight for their right to various benefits brought in by legislation.
One of the problems facing the campaign is that the 1988 legislation prohibiting Jogini dedications is little known even by the police who are supposed to enforce it. The rules required to enable the law to function still have not been framed. Our AHTU has taken legal action in the courts in the form of Public Interest Litigation to force the state government to put in place those rules, and to set up a commission to examine every aspect of the Jogini system and the effectiveness of legislation and benefit schemes.
Another key aspect of the programme is regular network meetings organised by the AHTU with over one hundred delegates attended the February conference in Hyderabad. Activists and NGO officers were joined by senior police and state government officials. The meeting was addressed by Kalpana Nayak, a superintendent in the women’s protection cell of the Indian Police Service, who briefed delegates on the progress being made to put in place anti-trafficking measures in Andhra Pradesh. Various activists and NGOs explained about their work and their concerns. This included the AHTU’s lawyer who reported on our programme to address the Jogini system, inviting others to partner with us. The meeting concluded with the drawing up of an action plan to move forward anti-trafficking efforts in the state.
The prevention and awareness programme is made possible through the dedication of our Indian colleagues and by generous donations from DFN’s supporters in the UK. The network meeting, legal action and awareness camp have all been funded by individual donations and through fundraising activities. It is hoped that businesses and charitable trusts will also contribute. Our target is to raise £50,000 this year.
Would you help us to bring freedom, hope and justice to these Dalit girls and women who are most at risk of exploitation? You can make donations online through our Virgin Money Giving pages, by post to our finance office (see contact details at bottom of home page), or by text giving (simply text ‘JOGN33’ followed by the amount - £10, £5 or £3 – to 70070).
Dalit Freedom Network UK
DFN UK is not responsible for content of external sites
Views expressed in Web Watch are not necessarily those of DFN UK
Stories: names have been changed to protect individuals
Stories: photographs are representative not actual