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the first thing that strikes you when you come to india is a sense of extreme contrasts. while some people are still shitting off the side of railway lines and eating from banana leaves, other people are drinking frappucinos

article about sex

article about sex, and wearing gucci sunglasses. along with this feeling of progress and moving forward, there's still this undercurrent of tradition, religion,

superstition, and an even more deeply engrained caste system. i didn't realize quite how sharp these contrasts between new and old india were until i came here last year to research an article about sex trafficking. on my very first day here, i met a group of temple prostitutes, who told me about this ancient hindu system where

prepubescent girls are dedicated to a goddess. and for the rest of their lives they will become sex slaves of the temple. the name of that system is devadasi. [prostitutes of godpart 1 of 4] this train is a little bit like the darjeeling limited, except we have cockroaches sleeping on our beds

and there's no one serving sweet lime. hello! so, in the beginning, being a devadasi had nothing to do with prostitution. in medieval india, they were glamorous temple dancers and held high social status. they performed sacred religious rituals and danced for royalty in the name of a goddess called yellamma. over the centuries, the link between the devadasis

and their temples gradually diminished, along with their social status. they became the paid mistresses of priests, then kings, and later, rich landowners. in the 19th century, western missionaries tried to abolish the tradition calling it grotesque and immoral, driving the devadasis underground. today, devadasis are no different

to common street hookers, servicing drunk truck drivers and bored businessmen. even though the practice has been illegal for over twenty years, up to 3,000 girls are still being secretly dedicated every year. we travelled to the border town of sangli, which straddles the two southern indian states of karnataka and maharastra. its red light district is home to hundreds of devadasi sex workers. that afternoon, we were invited there by anitha,

one of its most successful brothel owners. she's a member of an ngo called sangram, which fights to empower local sex workers. communication was pretty painful, as our interpreter, somashekar, was having some trouble with his english. everybody in the houses next door, this whole street, is also sex workers, like anitha? yes.

yes, sex workers. so, all the neighborhood. and they are all friends who live around here? everybody is friends? everybody is in france! so, when the customer comes inside, the door closes. and this- anitha's customer is going,door is closing. another lady, suma is another in this room.

she's not a customer, she is also a sex worker and she uses this room? yeah, i'm a sex worker. that's another one of anitha's friends who's lying in there, who's lying in there. i am gay. i working...i am sex worker. this is what she's saying. you? i am in this...anitha's room,customer, in this room.

tell me again, so, are you talking as you? are you telling me, somashekar, that you are a sex worker? you are a sex worker and you came to anitha's room and... customer coming... yeah. i work in this room. you work in this room and anitha works in this room? yes, this room. so, you all work together?

customers come in whatever number. nothing is could be one, two, three, four. for two hours they give me200 or 300 rupees (รข£4). [i bring the customer up andthen when the sex work is done,] i will take him down and wait for next customer. this is my house and i conductmy business over here. nobody has brought me here, nobody has kept me here. i became a devadasi only because i decided so. i wanted to be a sex worker to startthe business and make money.

i decided to build a fine home and buy utensils. i wanted to buy a tv, i wanted to do all that. i really don't think there is anythingwrong in doing this work. the whole place is completely different than what i thought it would be. i imagined these really seedy, anonymous hotel-looking brothels. but actually, there are kids running around everywhere, there are women doing their laundry, making lunch, and it feels like a tight-knit community. the ladies of sangli wouldn't let me leave

without showing me the temple around the corner. it seemed like wherever there were brothels, the goddess yellamma was never far away. for anitha and her friends, being a devadasi was nothing to be ashamed of. sex work was their choice, they had condoms, pair in numbers, and sangram looking after them, but these were just the lucky few.

for the vast majority of devadasis, prostitution isn't a choice. it's forced upon them, and most often by their parents.


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