Devadasi. A Sanskrit term used to describe a girl dedicated to worship a deity or a temple for her entire life, losing all control over their bodies, dignity and respect. This practice is deeply rooted in the communities bordering Andhra and Karnataka and was finally outlawed in 1982. Today, there are about 22,941 Devadasis in Karnataka. It is indeed infuriating to think of the number of years it took to abolish a practice so abominable. Infuriating to think that out of a misguided notion of devotion to religion and dire conditions, countless women were stripped of all dignity and were forced to work as sex slaves.
Curiosity to see the efficiency of the intervention programme by the Government, the lives of the women there, and a curiosity to learn about their means of livelihood drove Reachout to the remote, underdeveloped and poverty-stricken Raichur, a district in Karnataka.
Today, most of the women of Raichur work as masons or coolies, earning less than Rs. 100 a day. The children of such women, being illegitimate, are also ostracized. The district is entirely unsafe for women, with no toilets in most houses, no connectivity, and a complete absence of any political will to change this condition.
Gut-wrenching stories of women being subjected to the goriest forms of sexual violence and the horrifying deaths of many have firm Reachout’s resolve to stay in the heart of Raichur alongside these women to observe their current living conditions and the obstacles faced by them.
Reachout desires to scale up the employment opportunities for the women there along with aiming for the upliftment of these women. She has undertaken to collect data, meet with these women, live with them, and truly understand their story. One that needs to be heard. At the end of her study, she plans to submit a proposal to the UN regarding the same.