Evangelism Resources, an American mission group, recently held a Women's Conference called "You Are Precious" in the Karnataka state of India. Many Devadasi ("slave of god") women who were sold as eight-year-old children to become temple prostitutes attended the conference. Attendees ranged in age from 40 to 45 years old, and most were no longer involved in prostitution. Unwanted by anybody, many live in poverty. As a result of attending the conference, nearly 400 Devadasi prayed to receive Christ and were baptized.
Mass conversions have happened in India before. Most Indian citizens want to break free from the oppression of India's social caste system, which creates cycles of discrimination and despair. Missionaries have effectively reached women in Mumbai's red light district, and musicians and outreach organizations are currently raising money to combat the sex trafficking industry in India as well. There are some 450,000 Devadasi trapped in temple prostitution today, even though, according to the 1934 Devadasi Security Act, the practice is banned. Another attempt was made to ban it in the 1980s, but still it continues.
Female babies are welcomed in parts of India because they can be sold to the temple, thus providing money to an impoverished family. Also, by "marrying" the girl to the temple, families hope perhaps the gods will see to it that their next pregnancy is a boy. In India, according to best-selling authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "a 'bride burning'—to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry—takes place approximately once every two hours."1