World Journal of AIDS, 2013, 3, 26-32 Published Online March 2013 (
Disease, Death and Dhandha: Gharwalis Perspectives on
the Impact of AIDS on Devadasi System and the Sex Work
in South India
Kaveri Gurav1*, James Blanchard2
1Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, Bangalore, India; 2Centre for Global Public Health, Department of Community Health Sciences,
Winnipeg, Canada.
Email: *, kaverigurav1@g m
Received November 19th, 2012; revised December 23rd, 2012; accepted December 30th, 2012
Traditional Devadasi system based sex work (dhandha) is practiced in India. The communities that pr actice this system
are affected severely by AIDS epidemic. Through this paper we present the views of gharwalis (brothel madams) re-
garding the impact of AIDS on the traditional system (Devadasi system) of initiating girls as sex workers (Devadasis)
and on the practice of sex work (dhandha) associated with that system. Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted
with twelve gharwalis as a follow-up of a cohort study, which investig ated the patterns and determinants of sex worker
migration from northern Karnataka to southern Maharashtra, in India. According to gharwalis, the disease (AIDS) con-
sequences; death, fear and stigma affected dhandha op erations, chang ed the attitud e of th e Devadasi community against
the practice of dhandha and the Devadasi system, besides, influenced the community to take actions to stop the practice
of dhandha and the Devadasi system. The findings suggest that the interplay between the disease consequences and the
community’s response to those con seq uenc es contribu te to transition dhandha and th e Devadasi system. We discuss our
findings, describe the transition and the consequent risk enhancing conditions. Finally, highlight the need to address
these conditions to reduce Devadasis risk and vulnerability to HIV infection.
Keywords: India; Devadasi System; Gharwali; Sex Work; HIV/AIDS
1. Introduction
Some cultures support the sexual practices that do not
comply with the widely accepted social norms. The role
of such culturally prominent sexual practices in the
spread of HIV is well studied in India [1-3] and else-
where [4-6]. However, there is dearth of information on
whether there would be a change in the prevalence or in the
practice patterns of such cultural practices after the risk in-
volved in practicing them is recognized. The traditional
Devadasi system of dedicating girls to a deity is still
practiced in some parts of India [7] and the association of
this system with sex work is widely known [2,3]. In the
northern region of Karnataka state, Devadasi system is
practiced in lower caste communities. The sex workers
(Devadasis), who are part of this system, found to be
distinct in socio-behavioral characteristics, practice pat-
terns and sexual behaviors from other non -traditional sex
workers [3]. Besides, they found to be at higher odds of
being HIV positive [8], and with high rates of AIDS-
related mortality [9]. Thus, in the existing literature, the
Devadasis risk to HIV infection is well established.
While, the overall impact of the AIDS epidemic on the
practice of Devadasi system and dhandha (sex work) is
not documented. Although, in African countries, where
the cultural practices had major implications on the
spread of HIV, the evidences suggest a decline in the
risky cultural practices, norms, values, and customs as a
result of the severity of the AIDS epidemic and the ef-
forts to control it [10,11], but, no evidences or documen-
tation of whether such changes or decline in cultural
practices would protect the African communities from
HIV risk [12]. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of
the impact of the AIDS epidemic on the risky cultural
practices and on communities that follow such practices
is an apparent research gap.
Therefore, through this paper we present perspectives
of the gharwalis (bro th el ma da ms) o f Devadasi tradition ,
on the impact of AIDS on the Devadasi system and
Dhandha (sex work). Their perspectives revealed that the
Devadasi system [13,14] the dhandha (sex work) associ-
*Corresponding author.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. WJA
Disease, Death and Dhandha: Gharwalis Perspectives on the Impact of AIDS on
Devadasi System and the Sex Work in South India 27
ated with that system is under transition. Interplay be-
tween the severe consequences of AIDS and the commu-
nity’s response to those consequences contributed for the
transition. A critical analysis and the understanding this
transition, suggests a possible increase in Devadasis vul-
nerability to HIV infection. Thus, our findings by and
large confirm to the Rhode’s framework which empha-
size on the possibility of increase the risk of HIV trans-
mission due to the env ironmental conditions arising from
transition [15]. In this way, we attempt to fill the existing
information gap and also highlight the importance of
studying the impact of AIDS on the cultural practices,
primarily to recognize the possibility of the cultural prac-
tices undergo transition under the sever epide mic context
and, increase of the risk of HIV transmission.
1.1. Devadasi System in Karnataka
In the state of Karnataka, where the current study was
implemented, young and unmarried girls from low-caste
communities are dedicated to the deity called Yellamma
[7] and are then referred to as Devadasis, or “servants of
God”. Historically, Devadasis were concubines to men of
higher castes, now Devadasis practice commercial sex
work [3,16]. Ov er a quarter of the nearly 135,0 00 female
sex workers in Karnataka are Devadasis [3,17]. They
practice sex work in their homes or in lodges and broth-
els in rural settings, and also migrate outside the state,
mainly to cities in Maharashtra and work in brothels [3]
owned by gharwalis. Thus, the practice of Devadasi sys-
tem based sex work in Maharashtra is largely confined to
brothels, that are managed by the gharwalis. In the pre-
sent study we interviewed twelve gha rwalis. These
gharwalis are ex-Devadasis from Karnataka who pres-
ently manage brothels in the cities of Maharashtra.
1.2. Ethical Consideration
This study was approved by University of Manitoba’s
Ethics Review Board and St. John’s Medical College
Ethical Board (the local institution in India). All partici-
pants underwent an informed consent process prior to the
interviews and gave written co nsent.
2. Methodology
The overall goal of the qualitative interviews was to un-
derstand the changes that have occurred in dhandha as-
sociated with the Devadasi system in the past 10 - 15
years. To obtain this information, we interviewed ghar-
walis because their previous experience as sex workers
and their present experience of managing contemporary
Devadasis qualify th em to be an ap t informant to provide
perspectives on how dhandha and the Devadasi system is
changing in the era of AIDS.
We conducted in-depth interviews with 12 gharwalis,
selected from four major cities (Mumbai, Pune, Sangli
and Bhivandi) in Maharashtra. The interviews were con-
ducted as a follow-up of a cohort study called Payana
(meaning “journey” in the regional language, Kannada),
which was carried out in four urban places (mentioned
above) in Maharashtra and three rural districts (Bijapur,
Bagalkot and Belgaum) in Karnataka, between January
2008 and November 2009. Almost 22 months of data
collection mainly among Devadasis in Karnataka and
Maharashtra, helped to develop a rapport with the
Devadasi community. Likewise, the process of recruit-
ment and follow-up of 643 migrant Devadasis from the
brothels in Maharashtra strengthened our rapport and
trust with gharwalis. As a result, we could approach and
enroll gharwalis to participate in this qualitative study.
However, before enrolling gharwalis, we organized a
meeting in four urban places in Maharashtra and briefed
all the gharwalis about the study and obtained consen sus
for the study procedures, precisely, the permission to
spend time in their brothels during data collection and to
tape record the interv iews.
Next, we randomly selected 12 from a list of 120
Devadasi brothels that were mapped prior to the imple-
mentation of the qualitativ e study. Mumbai and Pu ne had
the most brothels, thus we chose 4 from each of those
cities, and 2 from each of the smaller cities, Sangli and
Bhivandi. Out of the 12 gharwalis selected, one was ill
and 2 who were uncomfortable with tape recording the
interview refused to participate. Therefore, we selected
additional 3 from the or iginal list. All 1 2 con sented to the
study protocols were interviewed. A research team of
four community researchers (Devadasi) and three aca-
demically trained researchers was led by the first author,
who is an anthropologist. We followed an ethnographic
approach and relied on in-depth interviews. Interviews
comprised of open-ended questions, took an average
about 45 minutes to complete. Interviews were con-
ducted in Kannada (the regional language of Karnataka,
and the native language of the gharwalis) and were tape
recorded. The ability of our team to communicate in
Kannada enabled to probe the gharwalis responses at
depth during the interviews.
The interviews were translated into English for the
analysis. The interview transcripts were read to identify
themes. A careful re-reading of the transcripts resulted in
a thorough understanding of the themes, the context and
the patterns. As a result, we formulated two different
ideas for further analysis and writing, one among them
was, the gharwalis perspectives on the impact of AIDS
on the Devadasi system and the sex work associated with
that system. Five key themes relevant to this particular
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. WJA
Disease, Death and Dhandha: Gharwalis Perspectives on the Impact of AIDS on
Devadasi System and the Sex Work in South India
idea were conceptually grouped into two descriptive
themes (1. the disease consequences and 2. the commu-
nity’s response to the disease consequences). Further
analysis of these themes and understanding them under
the larger context of Devadasi tradition helped to con-
solidate the findings, which are presented in the follow-
ing section.
3. Results
The mean reported age of the gharwalis, who partici-
pated in this study, was 46 years (range 40 to 60). On an
average, they had 12 years (range 5 - 20 years) of ex-
perience in brothel management. Each gharwali had an
average of 4 Devadasis (range 1 - 6) in their brothel. The
results are drawn based on five key themes emerged in
the interviews with 12 gharwalis.
The five key themes and the two descriptive themes
are presented in Table 1. Narratives that support these
themes illustrate that the disease consequences were per-
ceived by gharwalis as directly affected the dhandha (the
sex work) operations, changed the attitude of the mem-
bers of Devadasi community against the practice of
dhandha, the Devadasi system, and influenced the com-
munity to take actions to stop the Devadasi system and
the dhandha, wh ich ultimately ind icate the transition that
is occurring around the practice of dhandha and the
Devadasi system.
3.1. Disease Consequences
3.1.1. Death of Devadasis
Death of Devadasis was the consistent theme in the in-
terviews. According to gharwalis, death of Devadasis
was one of th e reasons for having no or few sex work ers
in the brothels. Average number of Devadasis working in
the brothels were 3 (range 0 - 6).
Following narratives from gharwalis illustrate the im-
portance of AIDS-related deaths in the reduction of the
number of Devadasis in brothels and also for the reduc-
tion in the earnings from dhandha.
Gharwali: “Before, (referring to 10 - 12 years ago)
Table 1. Themes and descriptive themes.
Themes Descriptive themes
Death of Devadasis
Fear of AIDS
Stigma at the workplace
Disease consequences
Attitude towards dhandha
and the Devadasi system
Actions to stop Devadasi system
Community’s response to
the disease consequences.
each house would have at least 10 - 15 women. But
now, no women! All young women have died due to bi-
mari (the disease). Most of the houses (brothels) in our
street have been closed. Out of 50, only 15 houses are
open (working); whom do we open them for? How can
we work without women? Most of them (sex workers)
died! The present situation is really very bad.”
Gharwali: “In my house 8 sex workers died because of
AIDS bimari (disease). After that, I closed my brothel.
Now, from the past two years I opened it again thinking
that I may earn some money. But, it is of no use. There is
no much income in dhandha these days. Wh atever little I
earn is sufficient only for my living here, but I have two
children in my village. I don’t know how to support my
family with this kind of income.”
3.1.2. F ea r of AIDS
All the gharwalis mentioned that the sex workers and
clients usually fear getting infected with AIDS, and in
their opinion fear of infection has reduced the number of
Devadasis migrating from Karnataka to work in the
brothels of Ma harashtra.
Explaining this context, a gharwali said, “Some wo-
men (sex workers) are scared of the disease and they do
not like to continue the practice of dhandha, so (the
number of) women coming from Karnataka to do
dhandha here (in Mumbai) has drastically reduced. My
brothel has only 3 women. Clients ask for new women,
where will I get them?”
Likewise another gharwali said, “Oh! Before, 20 - 30
women used to be there in my house (brothel) and there
would be no place to sit comfortably. My house would be
filled with men and women (the sex workers). Now, you
(referring to the interviewer) see, isn’t it empty? People
are scared of AIDS, they do not come now.”
A gharwali recalled the days when she was a sex
worker to explain the present situation of low clientele
and the income.
Gharwali: “During our time (referring to 15 years ago),
clients would come without any fear. We would get at
least 10 - 20 clients per day, the price was only Rs 25/for
one client and we would earn around 500 - 1000 Rs per
day. Now women charge Rs 120/per client, what is the
use? A woman can hardly get 1or 2 clients a day. We
starve and barrow money to buy food.”
3.1.3. S igma a t t h e Place of Work
The stigma associated with the brothels for spreading
AIDS, was mentioned by the gharwalis as a reason for
the reduction in the number of clients visiting the broth-
els. Referring to that situation, a gharwali said: “Because
of bimari (the disease) people are scared, now they (re-
ferring to organizations working for AIDS prevention)
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Disease, Death and Dhandha: Gharwalis Perspectives on the Impact of AIDS on
Devadasi System and the Sex Work in South India 29
stick the posters and boards (referring to materials related
to AIDS information) on the walls, all along the streets.
Men see all of that and think that they get AIDS if they
come to our brothels, so they don’t come like before, I
mean in the last 3 - 4 years, the number of clients coming
to us has come down.”
Likewise, another gharwali claimed that the stigma
associated to the workplace, compelled many Devadasis
to return to their native villages in Karnataka.
Gharwali: “Many young Devadasis, who previously
worked in brothels of Mumbai and Pune died because of
AIDS. Therefore people in our villages (in Karnataka),
see Devadasis working in Maharashtra as having AIDS
and blame them as carrier of AIDS. Therefore many
Devadasis packed their bags and left the brothels.”
From these narratives it is clear that the disease con-
sequences, reduced the number of Devadasis and the
clients accessing the brothels and also the income earned
from sex work, thus support the gharwalis view that the
disease consequences primarily affected the dhandha
3.2. Community’s Response to the Disease
Community’s response to the disease consequences is
understood in terms of the attitude that members of
Devadasi community ho ld and the actions that they have
taken towards the dhandha and the Devadasi system in
response to consequences of the AIDS epidemic.
The gharwalis narratives that reflect the present atti-
tude of the members of Devadasi community (gharwali,
family of Devadasis, social actors) regarding the dhand-
ha and the Devadasi system are outlined below.
3.2.1. Gharwalis’ Attitude
All the gharwalis acknowledged that the practice of
dhandha makes women vulnerable to diseases. None of
our study participants have initiated their daughters as
Devadasis. Referring to how the deaths of infected young
sex workers changed her from being an active facilitator
of dhandha, a gharwali said: “Before, we (gharwalis)
would go from village to village to find girls to work in
our brothels. Now, from the past 7 - 8 years we have
stopped that. Young girls died in front of my eyes, I am
kind of withdrawn by those deaths.”
Likewise all gharwalis mentioned that they support the
initiatives that are meant to stop the dedication of new
girls and not the attitude and action s that offend the prac-
tice of dhandha by women who are already Devadasis
(initiated into tradition long ago).
Referring to the attitude that offends the practice of
dhandha a gharwali said: “It is true that Devadasi dedi-
cations in Karnataka have now drastically declined. It is
a good thing, but I don’t like when Devadasis are being
accused for the practice of dhandha. We have no choice
but to continue to live on dhandha to fill the stomach. No
one to feed Devadasis and the reality is that we are
3.2.2. Devadasi Families’ Attitude
Gharwalis emphasized in their interviews that families
that have faced the consequences of the AIDS directly,
disapprove the practice of dhandha and also the dedica-
tion of any girls into sex work. Elaborating on this topic,
a gharwali said that she often hears members of some
families of Devadasis say that they do not mind to eat
rotti (thin bread made out of millet) and khara (chili
powder) but they do not want their daughter Devadasis to
continue in the dirty dhandha and die. Rotti and khara
are regarded as poor people’s food in northern Karnataka.
Such sentiment sign ifies a profound shift in the Devadasi
family members’ perception of dhandha and the con-
tinuation of the Devadasi system which was regarded as
an expression of religious duty.
3.2.3. Ac tions to Stop Devadasi System
Referring to the response of social actors (community
leaders, youth club members) to the disease consequen-
ces, gharwalis said that the stigma attached to the com-
munity for spreading the AIDS in society, is the main
reason for “social actors” to take actions to stop the
Devadasi system. The following narrative from ghar-
walis informs how AIDS shaped the attitude of “social
actors” against the Devadasi system and influence them
to take actions to stop the system.
Gharwali: “Due to the disease (AIDS), our samaja
(community) is losing respect and dignity. People from
other samaja blame us and they say that we spoil the so-
ciety by spreading disease. For that reason, our leaders
do not like to continue this system (Devadasi dedication),
and they say that it is a bad and superstitious practice.”
And another gharwali, responding to the same topic,
said: “In my village, no new dedications happened in th e
past 4 - 5 years. The system of dedication is fading away.
So no young girls are entering into sex work now. If
families dedicate their daughters, they will have to pay a
huge penalty of 4000 - 5000 Rs to daiva (the committee
of community leader s). Although they do not charge fine
on women who were initiated long ago, but still these
days D evadasis who do dhandha are not respected even
in our own community as before. Often these elders tell
women to stop dhandha and find some work in the field
(agricultural). It is difficult for women to work in the
fields now, No one understands that.”
From these narratives it is clear that the disease con-
sequences negatively influenced the community’s atti-
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Disease, Death and Dhandha: Gharwalis Perspectives on the Impact of AIDS on
Devadasi System and the Sex Work in South India
tude and to take initiatives to stop the practice of the
dhandha an d the Devadasi system.
4. Discussion
This paper relies on the perspectives of gharwalis on the
impact of AIDS on Devadasi system and the sex work
(i.e. dhandha). The disease consequences were perceived
by gharwalis as affected the dhandha, and changed the
attitude of the members of Devadasi community against
the practice of dhandha and Devadasi system. These
perspectives clearly indicate that the dhandha and Deva-
dasi system are under transition. Our analysis and under-
standing of these perspectives helped to recognize that
this transition has potential to produce the conditions th at
increase Devadasis vulnerability to HIV infection. As
mentioned before, our findings confirm to the Rhode’s
framework that emphasize the possibility of HIV risk
enhancement due to the enviro nmental conditions arising
from transition [15]. Therefore, in this section we de-
scribe the transition and consequent risky conditions.
Firstly, as far as transition in Dhandha is concerned,
reduction in the number of sex workers in brothels was
the key factor highlighted in gharwalis narratives. Death
of Devadasis, and the decline in the number of De-
vadasis going from Karnataka to the brothels in Ma-
harashtra, was emphasized as factors that contributed to
this reduction. A higher rate of AIDS associated mortality
(2.44 per 100 person-years) among Devadasis, which is
estimated to be 10 times higher than the national mortal-
ity rate among women [9], confirms gharwalis views
regarding severity of AIDS realted death among Deva-
dasis. But, there is no data in the existing literature to
confirm the reduction in number of Devadasis migrating
to the Maharashtra brothels. However, in the previous
work conducted among the brothel sex workers in Ma-
harashtra, it is mentioned that the D evadasi brothels at
that time consisted of 15 Devadasis (Menon, 1 997). This
number is five times more than the average number of
Devadasis present during our study, which certainly in-
forms that the Devadasi brothels currently have fewer
sex workers. Having less number of Devadasis was
claimed to be one of the main reasons for decline in the
income earned from dhandha.
Reduction in the brothel income was another important
factor highlighted in gharwalis narratives in relation to
change that had occured in dhandha. Although we lack
data to show the percentage of decline in the gharwalis
income, their explanations are compelling enough to rec-
ognize that, gharwalis and also Devadasis currently are
working in an economically less viable situation. Since
gharwalis income usually is the sum of 50% of the in-
come earned by total number of Devadasis in the brothel,
reduction in gharwalis income would certainly indicate a
reduction in Devadasis income. Since majority of De-
vadasis depend entirely on sex work for a living [3,9],
decline in their earnings increases their economic vul-
Similarly, as far as transition in the Devadasi system is
concerned, all the gharwalis mentioned about the action
(e.g. penalize families that dedicate daughters) taken by
the leaders from Devadasi community to stop the prac-
tice of Devadasi syste m. However, the appro ach adopted
to penalize the families that initiate girls as Devadasis,
appears to be paternalistic and risk producing. Since,
such approaches by social reformers, law enforcing au-
thorities in the past have driven Devadasi initiations un-
derground [17] there is a possibility that the families may
initiate girls secretly to avoid consequences. In fact few
anecdotal evidences revealed that the poor families initi-
ate girls secretly into sex work and then take loan from
the gharwalis to pay the penalty to the community com-
mittee (the daiva). However, these anecdotes need to be
confirmed before we draw the conclusion, yet they cer-
tainly indicate the possibility of Devadasi dedications
going underground.
Likewise, the negative attitude towards the practice of
dhandha was identified as adding to the social stigma
that Devadasis traditionally contend with. According to
the recent estimate, currently there are around 135,000
Devadasis [3] and studies have shown that large majority
of Devadasis rely on sex work for living [3,9]. Thus, the
social stigma, stigma at work place, negative attitude
towards women going to the brothels of Maharashtra are
some of the situations in which large majority of
Devadasis are presently living in and working. This en-
ables us to hypothesize that these situations may drive
away Devadasis from conventional places like brothels
of Maharashtra to the less conventional ones. This per-
haps is the reason for reduction of the number of Deva-
dasis going to Maharashtra brothels. Therefore, we assert
that the punitive approach to stop the system and the
negative attitude that condemn the practice of dhandha
do not really provide solution to the disease severity,
rather re-stigmatize the Devadasis.
Thus, based on our findings, we characterize the cur-
rent environmental conditions in which Devadasis live
and work, as economically less viable and socially stig-
matized. These environmental conditions, particularly,
the stigma associated to the sex work may drive sex
workers underground and it may stop them from access-
ing the services from HIV prevention interventions
[18,19]. Meanwhile, poor economic conditions without
alternative source of income may perhaps make them
indulge in unsafe sex practices [20-22]. Therefore, we
assert that the transition is Devadasi system and dhandha
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Disease, Death and Dhandha: Gharwalis Perspectives on the Impact of AIDS on
Devadasi System and the Sex Work in South India 31
increase Devadasis risk and vulnerability to HIV infec-
5. Conclusion
AIDS epidemic is likely to have major implications on
the culturally prominent sexual practices. The decline in
such practices by the communities or the changes occur-
ring in them could possibly be mistaken as decline in the
HIV risk. However, in this study, we found that the cul-
tural practices under the severe epidemic context, transi-
tion and produce conditions that enhance risk of HIV
transmission for the communities. Therefore, we con-
clude this paper by drawing the attention of HIV/AIDS
researchers to study the impact of AIDS epidemic on the
culturally prominent sexual practices and assess the risk
of HIV transmission for the communities that follow
such practices.
6. Programme Implications
With few exceptions, HIV prevention interventions a-
mong sex worker in India, focus heavily on behavior
change theories and aim to change individual’s risk be-
haviors [23]. But, it is quite well recognized that behav-
iors change interv ention alone are not adequ ate to curtail
the spread of HIV. Our findings highlight the importance
of addressing risk enhancing conditions along with indi-
vidual’s risk behaviors. In this study, we identified two
environmental conditions; stigma towards the practice of
sex work and the reduction in the income earned from
dhandha, have potential to increase HIV risk for Deva-
dasis. As suggested by Rhode, it is important to design
strategies that ameliorate the conditions that underpin
the increased risk of HIV [15]. Therefore HIV pro-
gramme implementers in this case should prioritize to
address the attitude and the actions of the members of
Devadasi community that intensify the inherent stigma
associated to the practice of Dhandha and the Devadasi
system. Towards this, Devadasi community, more spe-
cifically the leaders, should be made aware about how
their attitudes (negative) and approach (paternalistic)
towards dhandha, and the Devadasi system would en-
hance stigma and possibly increase the risk and vulner-
ability of Devadasis to get HIV infection. Meanwhile
they should be encouraged to address the impact of
AIDS through the initiatives that are suatinable and
community friendly.
Likewise, to improve the socio -economic co nditions
of Devadasis, the HIV programme implementers should
strategize to link Devadasis with the existing social in-
terventions implemented by government department.
Besides, a pilot project engaging Devadasis and Ghar-
walis to generate the alternative in come could be consid-
ered to explore the possibilities of addressing their vul-
nerability linked to the poor socio-economic condition.
7. Study Limitations
One of the limitations of this study relate to the fact that
we relied only on the observations and experience of
gharwalis and did not interview other social actors (e.g.
Devadasis, decision makers in the Devadasi families and
community leaders etc.), to ascertain the impact of AIDS
epidemic on Devadasi system and the dhandha. Since,
gharwalis are one of the important members of Devadasi
community and apt informant as far as the study topic is
concerned, the inferences drawn based on their views are
reliable. However, to build a less biased and comprehen-
sive understanding on the study topic, we recommend
that the future stud ies should consider interviewin g other
social actors directly. Secondly, twelve interviews may
appear to be small to influence the HIV programme im-
plementers to take actions based on our findings. But, we
declare that in these 12 interviews, we achieved the in-
formation saturation and hence the findings are reliable
to consider for the programmatic purpose. Nonetheless,
our study brings out an important issue of transition in
Devadasi system and the practice of dhandha and de-
monstarte its potential to produ ce conditions that enh anc e
Devadasis risk to get HIV infections. Since, there are
around 33,400 Devadasis currently living and working in
this risky environment, despite these limitations, we call
the attention of HIV prevention programmes to address
the risk producing conditions as a priority.
8. Acknowledgements
We would like to thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun-
dation for funding this research project. Thanks to the
study participants and the Community Based Organiza-
tions (CBOs) in our study area for suppo rting this pro ject
and finally we extend thanks to Satyanarayan, Hamum-
nath, Vilas the community researchers for assisting in the
data collection.
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