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Temple Prostitution: How Girls From ‘Lowest Castes’ Are Sold In The Name Of God

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Impact: Swati’s powerful story brought a horrifying reality to the mainstream for the first time. It started an active debate on caste and religion in the online space and has been read more than 2.6 lakh times.

By P. V. Swati:

After centuries of traditionally imposed prostitution, young girls in Wadia village near Palanpur are, for the first time, getting ready for a mass marriage. Wadia is known for being the ‘village of prostitutes’ in Gujarat, where young girls are trained to provide sexual services as soon as they attain puberty. Seven girls above 18 years of age will take part in the mass marriage.

Wadia has a population of 750 people of which 100-odd women are believed to be involved in prostitution since pre-Independence days. The men of the families often live off the women’s income, pimping clients.

The fate of girls in the village of Wadia might be on a road to transformation, but what about the countless number of women in India who are still engaged in forced temple prostitution under the garb of traditional customs like the Devadasi system?

The caste system is in Hindu religion has many manifestations. It has not only divided the society into various layers of graded hierarchy but has also created inhuman practices in the name of God. One of them is the Devadasi system prevalent in different forms all over India.

This cult is prevalent even today throughout India with some regional variances. Young girls are dedicated or married to, not a mortal-man, but an idol, deity or object of worship or to a temple. The barbarism of the tradition reflects in the very rituals it involves. The initiation ritual is said to include a ‘deflowering ceremony’, known as Uditambuvadu in some parts, where the priest would have intercourse with every girl enrolled at his temple as part of his religious ‘duty’. So much so that a Marathi saying states “Devadasi devachi bayako, sarya gavachi”, meaning ‘Servant of god, but the wife of the whole town’. The Devadasi is from the lowest caste, whose parents have given them to local goddesses or temples as human ‘offerings’. She has to remain unmarried, and maintain herself by ceremonial begging to make ends meet.

There are various myths around this inhuman practice. This system is based on the traditional belief in Andhra Pradesh that evil over the family or the village can be avoided by dedicating a girl in the family to the temple deity. As soon as she reaches puberty, she becomes a concubine for the feudal gentry in the village.

In Maharashtra, these women are made to sacrifice their first-born daughters. When she becomes of marriageable age, she is formally married to Khandoba, the deity and becomes his ‘nominal wife’.

In Karnataka, there is a traditional belief that when there is famine, drought or an epidemic, to appease gods and goddesses, a lower-caste girl is dedicated to the local goddess Huligamma. The Banchara, Rajnat, Dommara and Bedia tribes in Madhya Pradesh also practice traditional prostitution.

There has been an influence of the Devadasi tradition on the Muslim community as well. Some Muslim sects started offering girls to dargahs. The girl is then married to the Qu’ran. After the nikah is performed, the girl is called a bibi and is condemned to lead a life of prostitution.

Married to God before puberty, Devadasis or Joginis, many of whom live in the temples, become sexual servants to the villages’ upper-caste men after their first menstrual period. In some villages, men who buy them keep them as concubines. In others, they are public chattels, who are used by men free of charge. Socially, they are outcasts and they do suffer from severe venereal and sexually transmitted diseases. A majority of Devadasis, after reaching a certain age, migrate to towns where they join brothels and become commercial sex workers.

Some of the states where the Devadasi practice are still prevalent have tried to eradicate it through state laws like the Bombay Devadasis Protection Act, 1934, the Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1982 of Karnataka and the Andhra Pradesh Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1988.

However, the practice lives on in the states in South India mainly in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Districts bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka are known as the ‘Devadasi belt’ of the country. According to the National Commission on Women of India, it is estimated that around 2,50,000 Dalit girls are dedicated as Devadasis to Yellamma and Khondaba temples in the Maharashtra-Karnataka border.

There is a separate residential area allotted for the ex-Devadasis families, which is outside the village just like the Dalits. All the families of ex-Devadasis are headed by women. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Government have also allotted a few acres of land to each Devadasi family. But the stigma attached to their identity cannot be removed through these mere rehabilitation programs.

Village communities are not ready to accept ex-Devadasi families. So, the Devadasis, through the support of the local NGOs, organise themselves to form cooperatives. Through this, they have started income-generating activities. Very few of them are able to get married legally.

But, this move out of the traditionally prescribed structure cannot be without obstacles. The decision to marry girls in Wadia has not gone down well with the male touts of the community, as young girls fetch a higher price when first introduced to the trade. Fearing they will lose the girls, they have made some threats to the organizers. A local guardian of the girls and leader of Vicharti Jaati Samuday Samarthan Manch, which got the girls and their families ready for marriage, has also filed a complaint with the police.

Nevertheless, there is a ray of hope. The women of the community have built a support system for themselves and are determined to move out of the oppressive flesh trade they have been caged in for centuries now. The example of the Sarania women in Gujarat should be seen as a breakthrough and should inspire women suffering under the Devadasi system to move out of these traditional shackles.

Update: In an earlier version, ‘venereal’ was misspelled as ‘venerable’. It was corrected after Jia, a reader of the article, pointed out the mistake in a comment.

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  1. Twesh Mishra

    A very well researched article shedding light on an issue blatantly over stepped by the Indian media. Such appalling practices need to be curbed and generating awareness is the first step.

  2. Indian

    Very important issue and certainly needs attention wherever it is happening- and not only in the name of one religion but for all religious or economic reasons.

    Now, has it been written by some arm-chair amateur.?

    In Indian context “das” did not mean slave unlike in the middle east or the west but meant dedication/devotion. So, DAS IS NOT EQUAL TO SLAVE. In this land called India, people have generally been humble – therefore you will see many names like Ramdas, even Charandas and they don’t mean slave of Ram or feet. Similarly, the devdasi concept was neither forced nor something to exploited! (Yes over time and with invading effects it has corrupted, and now needs to be changed).
    How about the “bibi” and “nuns” as slaves of respective “gods”. Just bcz nobody dares talk abt their exploitation, they suffer silently? (Watch ‘Osama’ an iranian movie)

    How abt the pedophilia which even the Vatican dares not oppose, rather is fighting to protect many involved in such cases globally. Some it has lost too. even in India. Care to remove them too!!

    Well, women in India, on the contrary, have been very very free pre-islamic invasion. The “ghoogat” (Indian Veil) was a result of Islamic invasion (never existed before) and arose not only from the “burqa” but also from the need to protect our women from invading armies. Had the invaders come for charity? Certainly not!! Remember the Sikhs were born out of Islamic oppression and torture- not out of their love and peace-preaching!

    “There has been influence of Devadasi tradition on Muslim community as well. Some of the Muslim sects started offering girls to Dargas.” Any proof. How young was Mohammed’s (PBUH) youngest wife when married? was she 9?

    I think some common sense too would have added more value to your concern.

    1. Aman

      Do you know in the Vedas such practices have been mentioned where 8 forms of marraige exist and out of which father offering/marrying a girl to the preist is one of them…do u know in early vedic age women were free from bondages and enjoyed freedom and status equal to that of men…but in later vedic ages modifications were done to it to make the status of women more inferiror to that of men…

      You are right that the muslims had introduced Parda system…but even before that lot of other practices which were inhumane did exist in the vedas and the hindu culture as well…

      Its beacuse of such brutal practices reformers like Raja Ram mohan roy had to pitch in and preach that the vedas cannot be considered as infallible

    2. Abhishek Nilamber

      You are very deluded my friend, there was no “India” before the British came and colonized the many tiny states which were located on this peninsula!
      Also there was nothing called “Hindu” religion, it is created for sheer comfort of census! Surely you would see many many gods in scriptures but there are still tons of gods worshiped by people in this vast land who are not in scriptures, which points to the fact that the culture of this peninsula, which is of an inclusive nature, including land around now Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh etc was then a mix of countries sharing a similar cultural pattern, which could be roots of what now is known as Hinduism.
      Well if you read a little more you would see Shaivites fighting Vaishnavites and breaking each other’s temples, which can be viewed as a clan of people conquering each other’s kingdoms with no religious connotations attached to it, same goes for “Muslim invaders of India”.
      My suggestion to you: Let not propaganda do your thinking.
      Good Sunday to you brother. 🙂

    3. I’m not a muslim certainly

      I don’t get it ! How the hell you people manage to drag the muslim community, as the reason of all your miseries ! You so funny ! Lmao ! I mean it’s a bad ritual just do something about if you can

    4. asdf

      I am a Hindu woman and certainly agree that instead of discussing expoitation aganist woman, religion is forced into discussion.

    5. Asit Kumar Mitra

      pls chk all the Islamic countries where women are considered as a part of domestic animals and treated similarly.Dignity to the weaker sex is conspicuous by its total absence in their religious scripts. The blind faith on god, something which doesn't exist in the first place is the root of all such exploitations in various societies.Total eradication of the concept is the total solution , not isolated piecemeal efforts to solve these problems which primarily needs education and poverty elimination.

  3. kishan

    if the writer of the article can prove that a Muslim girl is married with Koran. Please don’t try to relate Hindu practices with Islam.

  4. Aman

    The woman status in ancient India was something worth a study..it was said they enjoyed equal status to that of men…and had equal rights to that of men..

    It is is only in the late vedic stages and early medivial period a lot of such practices and bondages were imposed on the women…

    Today all that is needed we stop following religious practices which are illogical and stop been superstitous…if we do so India would be a much better place for women …

    As rightly said by the author we are emerging and moving forwards from all these issues and atrocities against women and I feel is still better then our neighbouring countries like China ..Afghanistan..Pakistan Saudi and other islamic countries where a women is held responsible for rapes and is been treated as a salve/sex toys with no rights at all

    1. Somia Sharma

      Hi Aman,
      How are we any better than the neighboring countries you have mentioned???
      Even in our country the victim is blamed for rape. It is sometimes aid that bcoz she was out at night she was raped, bcoz she wore shortr clothes she was raped, bcoz she was out with a guy she was raped, bcoz she ate chowmein she was raped.
      I can give so many instances where not only the public but the politicians and police as well blamed the victim. She had to become the butt of all jokes.
      Our society til late did not support such women and most of them are forced to commit suicide.
      We definitely need to stop these groundless and absurd deeds in order to become a progressing society. And for this the government and people have to join hands for various initiatives. Education is the biggest strength that we can offer to shun off ignorance and orthodoxy.

    2. Aman

      I disagree with this as if the society would not have protested there would not have been a change in law…secondly the people who have said these statements have been condemned across the country..

      Thirdly the countries whom I spoke about most of them dont even have laws for rape and do not even consider rape as a crime…infact they punish the women instead for the crime….. although we have a long way to go to cover up the scar of been the 4 th most dangerous place for women…we are still seeing the masses getting involved to curb these mentalities…And I can definately say in confidence that few years down the line we will see a more emancipated condition of women in our country and history has proved that

    3. Somia Sharma

      For sure there have been changes in the recent past in the laws and the mentality of the people. But we still have a long way to go.
      And yes the people have been criticized but the fact remains that we have such leaders who blame the victims and not the rapists.

      Also we might be punishing the wrong doers but have the rapes stopped?? While we were protesting against 16th dec rape, the women were getting raped in different parts of the country. Instead of talking, its time to take action.

    4. Aman

      Hi Somia…. a full stop to rape is a bigger goal but it may not be achieved in one go….Just like we achieved independence on 15th March 1947…that does not mean that only the strugles done in that year have helped us get freedom from the Britishers…It also does not mean that all the other important struggles right from Revolt of 1857 to the other momentslike (Swadeshi, Non Coperation movements or Revolutionary actvities.) Were failures. Well of course they were therotically a failure as they did not achieve freedom immideately after the struggle but were able to cultivate the seeds of want for freedom amongst the people and brought got them involved into it in masses

      Similarly since the 16 December incident people have been outrageous about rapes,…So has been the media and every one else,,other wise rape and crime against women never were coevered so religiously and nor was there so much of debate earlier…Yes there are still rapes but this mass movment is getting vigouros and this will lead to bring in pressure on adminstrative and law machieneries..And in the end the victory would be ours

      All been said of course it is the time to call a Quit India moment for rapes and have actions and the ground is already been set with so many people in support of this movment ..And this fire lit will not get extinguished …it would bring a great reform in the current status of women in our country…

      As it is said to Break a stone it is not the last stroke that counts…all the other strokes are equally important …

    5. Somia Sharma

      Hello Aman,
      Yes I agree with you that many of the pre-independence struggles were a hellion sexist…

    6. Somia Sharma

      Hello Aman,
      Yes I agree with you that many of the pre-independence struggles were a failure but they did not stop after fighting for the cause. Everyone united. People considered it their aim, their responsibility to free India from the Britishers but what happened then is not happening now.
      The rapes are not stopping but have increased in numbers. And the cruelty has reached a different level altogether. People were awakened even 10 years ago wen a medical student was raped at Khooni Darwaza, Delhi. They were also provoked wen Bhawari Devi rape case came into picture, they also arose wen a photojournalist was raped by 5 people and brutally murdered.
      But wat happened????
      After some candle marches and some shouting everyone went back to enjoy their peaceful lives not considering it once till the next rape shook the world. And wat is the use of such movemets that cannot produce any result.
      The 16th dec rape case is today 7 months old. and everyone is silent and calm not bothered or hurt as they seemed then.
      If there be stringent rule in this, it would stop in one go. But the government is not doing anything…

      Sad it is to live in such a country where we are not sure of our safety… 🙁

    7. Abhishek Nilamber

      Well just because it’s better than those countries you just mentioned doesn’t mean that we in any way are progressive. We are a very hypocritical, deluded and regressive civilization at this point. How it came to be is something we all need to put our head together for!
      And I congratulate YKA for being that platform which facilitates such dialogue.

  5. human

    Totally rubbish…this article is completely baseless…just put up to misguide people… In no religious scriptures is it allowed that a women can hav physical relationship with any man other than her husband.. In bhagwat gita..7.11-16 it says “What is that scriptural injunction? That one must get himself married; otherwise, sex life is not allowed. It is considered sinful. Married life sex life is allowed.”

    And talking bout islamic view the holy quran says 24:3. “The fornicator and adulterer cannot have sexual relations (without lawful marriage) except with a fornicatress and adulteress or polytheistic woman (of low morality), and the fornicatress and adulteress, none can have sexual relations with her except a fornicator and adulterer or a polytheistic man (of low morality). And this (adultery and fornication) is forbidden to the believers.”

    So on what basis has this bloody article being posted without any concent…itz completely bullshit…m nt sure bout temples as iv not researched on it but m sure there is no darga practicing such ritual…this is rediculous!!

    1. Somia Sharma

      Hello Human,
      Then why were there ‘Ganikas’ during the time of Mahabharata. also there are instances where the women have been forced into prostitution.

      The ‘Sham marriage’ or ‘mutah marriage’ is the one wherein the muslims going on journey could marry a girl, spend some time with them and them leave them. The victims are left wretched and are forced into prostitution.
      In some cases the girl was as young as 16 to be married off to a 50 year old man.
      Saudis have been travelling for times immemorial in search of ‘halal sex’ to India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt.

  6. Somia Sharma

    Congratulations P.V. Swati,
    A very well written article.
    But I dont agree that it is right to degrade a religion because of the customs and practices made by the mortals.

    Disgusting it is to think of the frightful state of women in India. And to back it all are such traditions that deteriorate the situation even further.
    I am deeply pained to know that such praxis are prevalent even today. Devdasi or nun or bibi were the women who loved and devoted their lives to the service of God. But the custom made them what they turn out to be today- Prostitutes.

    I dont understand why the society has a dual approach to these women. On one hand they say that they are untouchable and should live away from rest of the beings while on the other they want to engage in copulation with them. They say that these women have bad blood running in their veins but forget that, these women are also a grain of their semen. Hence making them a part of their family. And shameless are these people to have sex with them, not knowing that she could turn out to be their sister, mother or daughter.

    Shameful it is for us that we live in such a society that worships various goddesses and enforces these women onto such heinous activities. I am deeply shamed to know that I live in such a country where the governments are so sluggish that they cannot stop such exercises from taking place even after 65 years of in dependence.
    I feel so humiliated and guilty of the fact that people of my country are so demonic that they promote such activities in the name of God. I am heartbroken to the actuality that they feed on the flesh of these women who wanted to live their life in service of God.

    1. vinober

      so u are supporting devadasi system but not prostitution. right! devotion to god or goddess can be there for a woman being with/in her family rather than dedicating/forcing someone who is ignorant about devotion or god.

  7. AM

    I like ur piece a lot and it is informative……..jst for some information wanna say abt d puri-jaganath tradition……where devadasi tradition is very different n there was/is no form of exploitation…..d last devadasi was bed ridden till recently (she died recently too) and she is sad that she cannot perform her devotional dance which she loves d most……devadasi system in Puri Jaganath was voluntary….there were till recently newspaper ads n young girls, used to voluntarily come n go for audition…..after she is initiated……no one is allowed to even look at her by raising there eyes…..n old days, if d devadasi complains d king abt any man even daring to do any slight mischief, his head was chopped off….all d Puri king, including the present one, highly revere the ‘devadasi’ and she is considered as the ‘wife of lord’ and the closest to god……everything done was based on consent……n once they become devadasis they cannot marry or have sex….it may seem repressive but girls who volunteered for this wanted to remain as…..a sort of what we call ‘mataji’ or hermit…..d last devadasi was sad that girls do not even volunteer for this anymore now days……so d devadasi system is not exactly ‘ban’ in Puri but has stopped by itself as no one is willing to do this job….since dedication to a deity n to d temple is somehow ‘boring’ in d modern world…..there has always been zero exploitation of girls n that is why its an exception to all form of devadasi ever practiced in India.

  8. Shweta Sachdeva

    The prevalence of Devdasi culture under the cloak of religion only rings true how deep culture has a hold on our nation. While it does give us uniqueness, it also betrays our thought process today. When Sati and prohibition on widow re-marriage could be done away with, why not this?

  9. Aadrita

    It’s interesting to note how it’s always women at the receiving end of the shit from religion be it any religion. not just practices like devdasi system but every every so called traditional ritual have something hidden in it which is degrading for women. very true that these system are parasitical in nature and cannot be tolerated but really we talk about them because we can see the results physically. what about rituals which we are practicing from who knows when but we still not question them and keep on celebrating them just because it doesn’t effect us physically. some examples are the ritual of kanya daan in hindu marriages like what are we furniture to be given away? this seems like some sort of copyright and patent transfer agreement between the father and the groom. after that the very ritual of wearing sindoor and mangal sutra the act of marking a woman just as u mark cattle to identify them when they go for grazing. the ritual of kanakanjali (throwing of rice by the bride to her parents at the time of bidaai) to imply that i have paid u back everything and now i don’t owe u anything like really? every other small ritual like karva chauth rakhi bhai duj ect (even blessings like saubhagyavati bhava or sada suhagan raho) everything is meant for the longevity for the boys nobody and no ritual cares for the life of a woman. we must fast for longevity for others and the funey part is we still do we celebrate karva chauth like it’s a second’t marriage or something don’t we? then the rules that society have for widows is a different story all together made so that women fear widowhood and do without thinking the crap patriarchy want them to do. my point is we must start questioning every ritual and what it have in store for women if we really believe in equality. we are really lucky to receive education and for logical thinking the women in the mentioned article are fighting the war a the most primitive level but we who don’t have to do it must think for ourselves and not let religion get the better of us lastly quoting Women Without Religion i want to say ‘evolution did not put you on two feet just so that you could crawl in the dust again before some fantasy’ think for yourselves 🙂

  10. Bhuwan

    Religions are just masks. What they are doing is criminal. The goal should not be to stop these practices but to put these perpetrators behind bars. There is no point in talking about whether one religion is good or bad. If a priest or a bishop or whatever religious figures commits a crime, he/she needs to be sent to jail. Some christian priests were also in the new quite often a few years back for their involvement in child molestations and i clearly remember how they were treated with biased impunity. Religion is a waste of time but it needs to be understood that its not the religion that can be punished, its the human being behind the action.

  11. Spandana

    Well, I do have a problem with the solution proposed. Why aren’t the girls/ women enrolled in an educational institution or some kind of training? Why are even minors made to get married for the so called redemption?

  12. Aman

    Rules are stringent …a death penalty is there for rapes as per the new modifications to the IPC…but yes like you said despite that people who want to do rapes gangrapes are doing it…Why??? They to know that if caught they would have to face the punishments…but problem is only if caught..no matter u give hardest of punihments or even encounter rapists…but all this can only happen when he is caught….these cases that are coming up people are not getting caught..

    Just like terrorist a rapist has only 1 intention rape …but like the Intelegence can keep an eye on the activities related to terrorist…there is nothing that can be done to keep a check on rapist as to when he will strike next…..they just attack like carnivorous animals …and do there job…

    A more daring step is required by women…they should start getting out od there modesty …start marching nude with an open invitation to rapists to come and rape if they can…a feel of shame should follow to all the male when they would see there daughters wifes mothers sisters walking nude like this…may be this shame will bring a change in therw mentalility

  13. Daniel

    Why not have police go into those villages and just seize all the children, and jail the local goverment.

    Of course, one has to also wonder how many of the people who could end it vacation there.

  14. jia

    i would expect better editing. the English is quite bad in places, and VENEREAL disease becomes VENERABLE (meaning commanding respect because of great age or impressive dignity; worthy of veneration or reverence, as because of high office or noble character:). As for MARRIAGE being the answer to this evil? that is highly problematic in itself. i would be much happier if the girls were being admitted to schools or accessing micro finance to start small businesses of their own. one patriarchal, oppressive institution cannot be fixed by using another patriarchal oppressive institution.

  15. Pratap

    Lust in the name of God. What a shameful act.
    Every women should be protected irrespective of their caste, religion.

  16. Sameer

    This practice should be stopped. I m sure like ISLAM no religion allows women to be treated like this “Bali ka bkra”.
    Islam does NOT give men limitless power to abuse women when he is given the status of 'head of the household'. As head of the household it does not allow them to legitimize their abuses. It angers me that men abuse women, and it angers me even more when women buy into such stupidity and allow it to continue. Islam does NOT want sheep for its adherents. As head of the household men are to protect women FROM abuses… not turn around and abuse them.

  17. mak6333

    Write a responseI don’t know how this asshole got information about Islam and married with Quran and tradition in lucknow. I’m from Lucknow but I never heard such kind of tradition in Islam. Stop spreading rumors about Islam

  18. shah nawaz

    Ms. P. V. Swati,
    I really don’t know how did you got that information from ” A girl is married to Quran” .
    It’s a kind Advice for you please do some more research before giving a fake information and insulting our religion. In Islam the first preference were given to ladies.

  19. shah nawaz

    Ms P V Swati, I realty don’t know from where you got that information ” A girl Marry to a Quran” and sacrificing a Giri to Darga” you really need to re check and verify before posting anything about my religion and for your kind information in our religion we are taught to respect women.

  20. Moinul Ashraf

    Ms. Swathi.
    From where did get this information about a Muslim girl getting married to Quran and sacrifing her life in Dargha.. ‘Falsely qouted’, just to earn few brownie points….and if it is true can I know where is it happening?
    All I know such practices aren’t there in Islam….

  21. Bharadwaj Maskikar

    Hi PVSwati what is the source of your information. Please quote names of villages and temples where these practices still exist and we could report these to the President and Prime minister of India.

  22. Negit Bukhari

    Madam u made ur story using yellow reporting…I can’t believe about smthg marrying to “Quran” in Muslim religion.Its really wrong u are mistaken and plz note Dargahs essessence evn a little child vl kno better thn as u quoted.Then wht abt those going to Dargah..They become holy n Even an ignorant Muslim won’t send his/her child fr any wrong means as you synergised ur story don’t kno hw true is tht vit Dargahs. …Plz don’t relate both.This shows ur sensational writing habit…

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Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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