Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act

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Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act
Madras Legislative Council
Territorial extentSouth India
Enacted byMadras Presidency
Enacted9 October 1947
Legislative history
BillDevadasi Abolition Bill
Introduced byO. P. Ramaswamy Reddiyar, Muthulakshmi Reddi
Related legislation
1956 Madras Anti-Devadasi Act
Gave devadasis the legal right to marry and made it illegal to dedicate girls to Hindu temples
Devadasi, prostitution in India
Status: In force

The Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act (also called the Tamil Nadu Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act or the Madras Devadasi Act) is a law that was enacted on 9 October 1947 just after India became independent from British rule.[1] The law was passed in the Madras Presidency and gave devadasis the legal right to marry and made it illegal to dedicate girls to Hindu temples.[2] The bill that became this act was the Devadasi Abolition Bill.[3]

Periyar E. V. Ramasamy was part in passing the Devadasi Abolition Bill but, owing to strong protests from devadasis across Madras Presidency, he suggested that the bill be introduced only as a private bill and not a public bill.[4]

Muthulakshmi Reddi proposed the bill to the Madras Legislative Council as early as 1930 but was passed on only during the Premiership of O. P. Ramaswamy Reddiyar (a.k.a. Omandur Reddy's Congress led government) on 9 October 1947.[5]

Some devadasis objected to the bill because they considered themselves sophisticated and learned artists rather than prostitutes.[6] The Madras Devadasi Act was not as strict as subsequent related laws.[7] Because the Madras Devadasi Act was specific to devadasis, prostitution continued in South India, particularly along the coast in Andhra Pradesh, until the Madras Anti-Devadasi Act was passed on 14 August 1956.[8] The Madras Devadasi Act is one of several laws passed in the presidencies and provinces of British India and the subsequent states and territories of India that made prostitution illegal, including the 1934 Bombay Devadasi Protection Act, the 1957 Bombay Protection (Extension) Act, and the 1988 Andhra Pradesh Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act.[9]


  1. ^ B. S. Chandrababu; L. Thilagavathi (2009). Woman, Her History and Her Struggle for Emancipation. Bharathi Puthakalayam. p. 264. ISBN 978-8189909970.
  2. ^ V. Sithannan (2006). Immoral Traffic: Prostitution in India. JEYWIN Publications. p. 21. ISBN 978-8190597500.
  3. ^ Parvathi Menon (2000). Alice Thorner; Maithreyi Krishnaraj (eds.). "Ideals, Images and Real Lives: Women in Literature and History". Frontline. 18 (16). Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  4. ^ Vadivelu Rajalakshmi (1985). The Political Behaviour of Women in Tamil Nadu. Inter-India Publications. ISBN 978-8121000208.
  5. ^ Ananya Chatterjea (2004). Butting Out: Reading Resistive Choreographies Through Works by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Chandralekha. Wesleyan University Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-0819567338.
  6. ^ Moovalur A. Ramamrithammal (2003). K. Srilata (ed.). Lobbying for Devadasi Abolition: From Artiste to Prostitute. The Other Half of the Coconut: Women Writing Self-respect History. Zubaan. p. 100. ISBN 978-8186706503.
  7. ^ Gurmukh R. Madan (1979). Western Sociologists on Indian Society: Marx, Spencer, Wever, Durkheim, Pareto. Taylor & Francis. p. 351. ISBN 978-0710087829.
  8. ^ Davesh Soneji (2012). Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India. University of Chicago Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0226768090.
  9. ^ Promoting Women's Rights As Human Rights. United Nations. 1999. p. 97. ISBN 978-9211200034.