Dedicated to an Indian goddess as a child, Huvakka Bhimappa’s years of sexual servitude began when her uncle took her virginity, raping her in exchange for a saree and some jewellery.
Bhimappa was not yet 10 years old when she became a “devadasi” — girls coerced by their parents into an elaborate wedding ritual with a Hindu deity, many of whom are then forced into illegal prostitution.
Devadasis are expected to live a life of religious devotion, forbidden from marrying other mortals, and forced at puberty to sacrifice their virginity to an older man, in return for money or gifts.
“In my case, it was my mother’s brother,” Bhimappa, now in her late 40s, told AFP.
What followed was years of sexual slavery, earning money for her family through encounters with other men in the name of serving the goddess.
Bhimappa eventually escaped her servitude but with no education, she earns around a dollar a day toiling in fields.
Her time as a devotee to the Hindu goddess Yellamma has also rendered her an outcast in the eyes of her community.
She had loved a man once, but it would have been unthinkable for her to ask him to marry.