In this paper we examined the role of Devadasi brothel madams in promoting safe sex practices among sex workers. Qualitative, in-depth interviews were conducted with twelve brothel madams as a follow-up of a larger cohort study that aimed to understand the patterns and determinants of sex workers migration from northern Karnataka to southern Maharashtra, in India. Our research identified that madams were ex- sex workers, who entered into sex work through the traditional Devadasi system and currently manage Devadasi sex workers in their own brothels. The social and kinship relations between the madams and the sex workers form the basis on which these brothels function. Brothel madam’s role in the promotion of safe sex and their influence on sex workers in seeking health care is tied to reciprocal kinship relations, reveals an important area of opportunity for HIV prevention efforts to fully exploit these positive aspects of these relationships within intervention design and service delivery to achieve more desirable health outcomes and to effectively address HIV risk and vulnerabilities within the context of brothel environment.
Key words: Brothel madam, Devadasi system, India, in-depth interviews, sex workers, HIV/AIDS.
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