Factors Associated with Continued Jogini Practice in Telanaga, India





Jogini, Devadasi, sexual exploitation, religious exploitation, disablility, poverty, India, mathamma, Telangana


The Jogini, or Devadasi, system sees young girls “married” to a deity after which she is seen as the property of the village and required to perform religious duties and often sexual favours, typically without payment or freedom of choice.  There is a paucity of published research on the factors which make women vulnerable to this exploitation and the factors which increase the likelihood that they are able to extricate themselves from it. 

This is a population study of 657 women who had previously been dedicated as Joginis living in 10 villages in Mahabubnagar district of Telangana, South India.  The primary outcome of interest was whether the women were practicing as a Jogini at the time of the survey.

Data was analyzed using a mixed effect logistic regression test to determine possible determinants of practicing status.  Four factors were found to be significantly associated with continued Jogini practice: 1) being a person with a disability, 2) reason for dedication given as family tradition of other Joginis in the family, 3) poverty in the family of origin, and 4) living in a village with more than ten percent of the population belonging to a scheduled tribe.  One factor significantly negatively associated with continued practice was having one or more male children.

Analysis of the demographic data for these women confirmed the previously known fact that the exploitation in the form of the Jogini system disproportionately affects those who are already vulnerable in society — those from scheduled castes (SC) and tribes (ST), other backward castes (OBC), the disabled, the uneducated, and the poor.  Between them, SCs, STs, and OBCs make up the non-forward castes, i.e., those who are socially disadvantaged.  The scheduled castes, formally known as untouchables, are the lowest of the Indian castes.  Scheduled tribes are tribal people, not part of any organized religion.  Other backward castes are those between the forward castes and the scheduled castes in terms of social order.

Author Biographies

Alison Youdle

Director of Clinics, Good Shepherd India where the data collection for this study was done. (pseudonym used for security purposes)

Beryl A D'Souza Vali, Good Shepherd Health Initiative

Medical Director, Good Shepherd Health

Nathan John

MBBS, PhD, Professsor of Global Health (pseudonym used for security purposes) 



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How to Cite

Youdle, A., D’Souza Vali, B. A., John , N., & Anderson, P. (2023). Factors Associated with Continued Jogini Practice in Telanaga, India. Christian Journal for Global Health, 10(2), 6–21. https://doi.org/10.15566/cjgh.v10i2.769