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International report

Indian Devadasis part 2/2

Audio 04:00
A 1920s photograph of two Devadasis in Tamil Nadu, South India.
A 1920s photograph of two Devadasis in Tamil Nadu, South India. Wikimedia Commons

The Devadasi system is a religious practice in south India mostly prevalent in Karnataka and Telangana, and partly in Andhra Pradesh. Parents, mostly from poor communities of the untouchable class, marry off their daughters to a local deity or a temple.


It was a practice that existed for more than 5,000 years. Once dedicated, a girl is considered to be married to the goddess and is never allowed to marry a man. When the girl reaches physical maturity, she is then forced to begin her life as a prostitute.

Though the Indian government banned the practice in 1988, it still continues clandestinely. But now the community is pushing for state governments in India to tighten its enforcement of the laws and seek rehabilitation for those caught in the system.

Many have formed associations and are now demanding an increase in their monthly pension, implementation of housing schemes, and free education for their children as some of the critical first steps.

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