Photograph© 2000 Nina Berman
A devadasi woman cleans the grounds in front of the temple in Manvi, Kanartaka.
Devadasis, are mainly poor Dalit women and girls in southern India, who as children are dedicated to Yellamma, the Hindu fertility goddess, and forced to live a life in sexual service to upper caste men in the village.
They are forbidden to marry in the traditional sense and so their existence is precarious. Children born from devadasis are stigmatized as they have no recognized father, and can be sold off, continuing the pattern of marginalization and poverty and forced sexual labor.
Many young devadasi women flee their villages and end up working in the brothels of Mumbai. As the women age, they are discarded with no means of income. The practice was declared illegal, but still continues, with an estimated 50,000 devadasis alive today.
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