The jogin system that perpetuates the sexual exploitation of young Dalit girls in the garb of tradition is a social curse that is widely prevalent in the Telangana areas of Andhra Pradesh. In the first major step towards their rehabilitation, 10 jogins were married in Nizamabad, as their children looked on.
Becoming a demure bride was something Lakshmi had thought would happen only in her dreams. When she was three, Lakshmi was made into a jogin by a symbolic marriage to God, which meant she could be exploited sexually all her life. Today, that has changed. “I never thought anyone will come forward. He came, so I am getting married,” observed Lakshmi.
Lakshmi like many others had been condemned to live the life of a jogin, who by social custom is a village asset and is not allowed to marry. The children of a jogin never have the father’s name.
Jogin women have the social sanction to beget children. According to the Indian Evidence Act, children are legitimately fathered only by a man to whom the mother is wedded or the two should be known to have been publicly living together.
Three other couples like Balamma and Raju, who have been living together and have children, have taken the brave step to legalise their relationship. “The exercise that was undertaken today is an attempt to change the mindset of the people, especially the women themselves that they can marry,” explained Ashok Kumar, Collector, Nizamabad district.
Though the administration has taken over the role of a parent in solemnizing the marriages, they have an arduous rehabilitation task ahead with as many as 5,000 jogins reported in Nizamabad district alone.