The economics of female sexuality in India are embodied in the caste system, which allocates women of certain caste groups to the domestic sphere and relegates Dalit/lower caste women to religious/sacred prostitution. The dominance of Shudra (often OBC) castes over religious spaces further marginalized Dalits and vulnerable lower-Shudra castes pertaining to the sexual exploitation of men and women within the institution of sacred prostitution. Shudra (OBC) castes’ hold over religious institutions in contemporary society facilitated the hegemony of the Brahminic ideology of caste and patriarchy even in the lower-caste religious practices like worship of female deities such as Yellamma in south India. This article discusses the religious aspects of the oppression of Dalits (outcastes) shaped by lower-caste religiosity through a study of the conditions of Dalit men and women who are dedicated to the temples of village deities and are varyingly called Jogta, Jogtin, Jogini, Potaraju, Matangi/Matamma, Shivashakti, Basavi, and Murali in different regions of south India. The current study is based on the experiences of Joginis and Jogtas from Telangana and Marathwada region of the state of Maharashtra. This article explores the livelihood aspect of the Jogini system, in other words, the economic vulnerabilities shaped by caste hierarchies that result in the perpetuation of the practice of sacred prostitution; how the caste hierarchies refigure in the reorganization of masculinities through the institutions of Jogini and Jogta; and how the question of Dalit self-respect is construed by Joginis and Jogtas within the paradigm of religious institutions.

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