The following information is painful, but please don’t look away.
For over 2,000 years, hundreds of thousands of girls in India have been forced into ritualized sexual abuse. Girls as young as four years old are dedicated in marriage-like ceremonies filled with gifts, jewelry, new clothing, and an attitude of celebration. But “celebration” is far from the reality of this day. The young ones being paraded through their villages often have no idea of the horrors that await them in just a few years as a result of this religiously sanctioned event. After reaching puberty she becomes the property of the village and can be used by any man, anywhere, anytime, trapped forever in a life of sexual servitude.
We want to look away. But we must ask Why?
Why would a family do this? Why would a mother who loves her precious daughter subject her to a life of abuse? Because they feel they have no choice. They are trapped financially and need money to pay for life-saving medical treatments. Or maybe they are so in debt to loan sharks for things like food and housing, they have no other option to save their family. Even more disturbing, a family forces this on their daughter because they feel it is their fate. They believe with all their hearts it has been prescribed for them in their destiny. They desperately want a blessing from the gods to solve their financial woes.
It’s unthinkable, but please don’t look away.
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 women still trapped in this type of ritualized prostitution in India today, even though it’s been declared illegal since 1988. (Yes, you read that correctly, 1988, not 1888.) Sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, and poor health run rampant. Mental health issues and depression are widespread. These young women are stigmatized and abused physically, sexually, emotionally, and financially. Most are illiterate, struggle with substance abuse and live in extreme poverty, all factors that keep them trapped in a life without dignity and without freedom.
Those of us who have freedom and live with assurance of our dignity must not look away.
In fact, we must stand together to restore the dignity of those from whom it has been stolen.
Like you, Dignity Freedom Network believes that no woman or child should live such a life. We cannot look away. We must be a part of the solution to end the ritualized sexual system in India. In fact, we must focus our gaze on families whose lives have been compromised by sexual exploitation, offering them whole care that benefits the whole community. Used together, rescue and prevention will bring this ritualized system to an end.
Dignity Freedom Network refuses to look away.
DFN’s team of faithful monthly supporters are the champions of the rescue and prevention efforts on the ground where the important work of restoration is happening. Members of Promise support women like Sujamma, Lajamma, and Harshita. They are gritty, strong-willed survivors of sexual exploitation who are committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of their broken and used up sweet sisters. Their beaten and bruised bodies, their graying, straw-like hair, and their premature wrinkled skin are badges of honor earned through trauma unknown to others. They want to save young girls from walking the road they had to walk. And they’re doing it. One girl at a time. One day at a time. One prevented dedication at a time.
Recovery is a long road, but it is possible and Dignity Freedom Network walks with them every step of the way.
We cannot all be on-the-ground fighting for these girls, but we can all do something.
Dignity Freedom Network offers our worldwide partners opportunities to stand with the women of India as they battle sexual exploitation and oppression of all kinds. You can prevent such atrocities in the life of young women. You can provide education, healthcare, and skills training for girls at risk of this kind of trafficking. You can provide families with timely support to lift them out of poverty and into lives of hope and freedom.
Join the fight today. Email me to find out how you and your church can join the battle.
Or, learn more about becoming a member of Promise, our team dedicated to rescuing children and families from the constant threat of trafficking and exploitation .
Don’t look away. Our sisters are counting on you.