An assertive Madhu talks about HIV/AIDS and its different aspects with remarkable ease. Seeing her, it is hard to believe that she was once a poverty-stricken and sexually-exploited devdasi.
Madhu and some 120 odd women are now in the process of redefining their lives. Dedicated to a temple at a very young age — some of them as young as nine months — and sent there as soon as they attain puberty, these devdasis have faced many trials. Devdasis were victims of an ancient system, wherein girls from lower caste were married off to Goddess Yelamma. The girl had to spend her entire life in the service of the local temple, where most of the time she is sexually exploited.
A majority of these devadasis then became commercial sex workers, falling easy prey to HIV/AIDS. But that was about five years ago. Today, these women in this north Karnataka district are aware of the danger stalking them, thanks to the Chaitanya AIDS Prevention Mahila Sangha, which is making their lives more secure.