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11 year old Prema, pictured, is forced by poverty to spend her childhood at risk of child prostitution. Across India, girls just like her are sexually abused through a system known as ‘devadasi’ and face a lifetime of exploitation.
‘Devadasi’ means ‘woman who serves God’. From as young as four years old girls like Prema are dedicated to the Hindu goddess of fertility. When they reach puberty, they are expected to sell themselves in servitude to the goddess.
Prema comes from a Devadasi family. It is all too common for ‘dedication’ to be passed from mother to daughter. Poor lower-caste families, often living in extreme poverty, see the Devadasi system as their only means of survival. A lack of opportunities and severe discrimination against lower-caste families plays a key role in the continuing abuses of the Devadasi system, which remains prevalent in southern India despite being illegal since 1988.
Prema’s mother says, ‘I don’t want my daughters to have the life I have had. It was not a good life. Education is the only way for our children.’
Please make a donation today to free girls like Prema from abuse and give them back their childhoods.