Dutiful daughters: HIV/AIDS, moral pragmatics, female citizenship and structural violence among Devadasis in northern Karnataka, India

Shamshad Khan, Robert Lorway, Claudyne Chevrier, et al. Global Public Health, 2017; Read the full article here

Decades of research have documented how sex workers worldwide, particularly female sex workers (FSWs), shoulder a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic. In India, although a substantial progress has been made in controlling the epidemic, its prevalence among FSWs and the Devadasis (also called traditional sex workers) in northern Karnataka is still significantly high. On the other hand, much of the HIV prevention research has focused on their mapping and size estimation, typologies, bio-behavioural surveillance, condom use and other prevention technologies.

In this article, drawing on critical theoretical perspectives, secondary historical sources and in-depth interviews, the authors unravel wider social, cultural and political economic complexities surrounding the lives of Devadasis, and specifically illuminate the moral pragmatics that shed light on their entry into sex trade and vulnerability to HIV. Findings from this research are extremely important since while much is known about Devadasis in social sciences and humanities, relatively little is known about the complexities of their lives within public health discourses related to HIV. The research has direct implications for ongoing HIV prevention and health promotion efforts in the region and beyond.

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