International Journal of
Sociology and Anthropology

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Sociol. Anthropol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2006-988X
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJSA
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 305

Full Length Research Paper

Role of Devadasi brothel madams in the promotion of safe sex practices among sex workers in the brothels of Maharashtra, India

Kaveri Gurav1*, Robert Lorway2, Janet Bradley3 and James Blanchard4
  1Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, 5th Floor, ITBT Park, Industrial Area, Rajajinagar, Bangalore-560010, Karnataka, India. 2Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba - Room S113 - 750 Bannatyne Avenue  University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, MB R3E 0W3. 3CHARME-India Project, Bangalore, India. 4Department of Community Health Sciences, R073– 750 Bannatyne Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3E 0W3.
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 08 January 2013
  •  Published: 31 March 2013



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.