Getting Out of the Devadasi System (GOOD) is an initiative by Terre des Hommes – Netherlands in North Karnataka, India, which began in March 2019. The project aims to end the exploitation faced by young girls in the Devadasi System and empower them to be agents of change in their development process.
The project empowers close to 2,500 adolescent girls in North Karnataka to fight against the issue of Devadasi dedication. Children are given access to education & vocational training, trained on child rights, child protection acts, advocacy and are protected against all forms of exploitation. The project is being implemented in Bellari, Koppala, Bagalkot, Vijayapura and Belagavi districts with the help of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
The project is implemented in the most vulnerable districts of North Karnataka with the help of Community Based Organisations. These organisations are networks of Devadasi women who have pledged to work for the cause of their own community.
|Organisation||District||Number of villages|
|SNEHA and Muktha Network||Ballari||19|
|SNEHA and Muktha Network||Koppala||17|
|Chaitanya Mahila Sangha||Bagalkot||16|
|Jagruthi Mahila Sangha||Vijayapura||14|
|SEVAK and Amma Foundation||Belagavi||15|
The term Devadasi, literally translates into ‘servant of God’. In olden times, Devadasis were young girls who were dedicated to God as dancers and musicians exclusively for worship. To be a Devadasi was to be respected as it was a position of piety and reverence.
Unfortunately, that is not the case today.
In poverty struck areas, Devadasi women belonging to lower caste sections of society (schedule castes, scheduled tribes) are victims of social and sexual exploitation. They have been reduced to being used for sex by one or multiple partners. This becomes a way of life, where culture and tradition is being misused to satisfy vested interests of perpetrators of abuse, primarily due to patriarchy, sexism and caste-based oppression.
Children of Devadasis face immense exploitation. They are discriminated in society and a result, are not exposed to opportunities and platforms that help them grow. They are at risk of being abused by their mothers’ partners or/and by men in their society. Society sees them through a demeaning lens and they are often subjugated leading to a lot of emotional and mental health problems among them.
Eighteen-year-old Chandana* from a village in North Karnataka is from a family of Devadasis. She lost her mother at a young age as she was HIV positive. Due to poverty, she had to stop her schooling in class nine. Currently living with her grandmother, Chandana was part of a drum performance team that presents shows at festivals. In these festivals, she was repeatedly harassed sexually by many men.
When GOOD intervened in her life through a partner organisation, Chandana was enrolled in school and has now completed her 1st PUC. She was also organised into a Children’s Club where she was counselled on child rights and entitlements. She is being counselled and given moral and emotional support. She is now free from her previously exploitative environment.
*Name changed to protect the identity