The Cost Of a Woman

a Devadasi who silently cried out for help

By Stuti Chegoori

My body is worth a penny, my heart is worth a nickel, my soul is worth a dime. To others this statement may seem like worthless words but to the Devadasis’ that are living in India this is their reality. Being a Hindu woman in a time where women are forced to sell their bodies to feed their families is sickening and sad to me. I have grown up relying on my parents; not having to work a day in my life because my hardworking parents were able to earn the funds that were necessary to put me and my younger brother through school and supply us with food, water, and other luxuries such as a safe home. These women on the other hand are sold into this trade at ages younger than 13, their worth being their “bodies”, which they must sell to feed their families. Just as a butcher makes money off, selling the body parts of animals to people, these women are forced to sell their bodies in a similar manner. Can we compare a human to cattle? No, we cannot.

“Your own mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter except by your promotion.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

One mind can hold somewhere from one hundred to one thousand thoughts each of which is protected by the enclosure known as your brain. Thoughts of hate, wisdom, pain and want are all held never to be released until the soft-spoken breath passes one’s lips. The only way someone is able to reach this enclosure is if the guard lets them through. The guard who resigns under your name is the only one that can let anyone breach the walls of your mind breaking you slowly. In the same regard the Devadasis’ sacred enclosure of her body and mind is breached every day. The thoughts that swirl around her head slowly but surely float away as she is corrupted from the inside out. The focus on Devadasis’ is usually looked at primarily from the standpoint of the body. However, the mental toll is also an important aspect of what is means to be a Devadasi. While her body is exploited for the funds she needs to survive. Her mind slowly crumbles; starting with hope that things will work out and ending with defenseless thoughts of the realization of what her life has succumb to. Nothing harmful should be able to enter without her consent, without her allowance. She does not have the opportunity and knowledge to get away from the painful practice that she has been roped into so all she has is her mind that will slowly also feel the effects of this practice.  So she uses her mental perseverance to fight and fight and although she falls: Yes, She Rises.

 

Living in America the idea of parents allowing one to become a sex worker against their will is shocking.

A cry for help… to many this is visualized literally as someone screaming, but a deafening cry for help is not always heard, and it is not always spoken; sometimes the cry is silent. “I thought my uncle would stop me from entering this profession… but he didn’t”. This quote came from a Devadasi who silently cried out for help to be on the receiving end of silence. Imagine the people surrounding you; the people who have raised you; the people that are supposed to have your back no matter what, not protecting you in your time of need. I look up to my parents and family so much and in my head I want to believe that if I am put in a situation where I need their help, my family members will answer my call for help and they WILL rescue me. I would like to believe this the same way for the Devadasi woman who cried for help, but in her case, her one source of protection also went against her in the end, this in turn took away her last bit of hope of escaping the unfortunate circumstances that were to follow in the years to come. Living in America the idea of parents allowing one to become a sex worker against their will is shocking. In fact, that job is looked down upon because of the lack of dignity that is tied to it. The saddest part about this is that they are forced into this not for themselves, but for their families. In some cases, these women are forced to have children against their will, at ages as young as 12! One lady stated “my parent forced me into this for money. It went on. I became pregnant within 6 months.” When I was 12 years old, in 8th grade, my biggest struggle in life back then was whether I wanted to eat at McDonalds or Chick-fil-a. At 12 years old I was barely able to take care of myself, how would I be able to take care of another child?

I have been raised with the mindset that I will be able to achieve anything that I put my mind to, I have learned the meaning of being a strong independent woman, I know that I will be able to work hard and become successful in life in order to support my family, and above everything I know that as a woman my life is equal to that of a man. With this mindset, I try and put myself in the same situation as that of the Devadasi women. I would feel worthless, my only purpose in life would be to have my body become something similar to a child’s plaything; used until I have become boring and then tossed to the side to be forgotten until someone new comes to play with me. Many of these Devadasi women have started from a young age because their parents condone this practice under the belief that they are doing this for God. To me this reasoning is an excuse from parents to validate the corrupt custom that they know is wrong. However, this mindset is not their fault, they have grown up with the knowledge that women cannot do any work other than what they can use their bodies for. For this reason, it is important to find ways to create change for these women, no one –man or woman– should be remotely comparable to a piece of meat or any object, because they are SO MUCH MORE than that.

About the author

Stuti Chegoori is a 15-year old, in 11th grade, attending Marvin Ridge high school in North Carolina. She has a keen interest in the health-care and is pursuing a career in this field. She has competed in a multitude of school competitions reaching both national and international levels respectively. Her goal is to use her life to make a difference, help people, connect with them, and reach out to as many people as she can, she knows that her goal can be achieved by working with the YesSheRises project.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. At your age to feel so strongly about an issue which is not even directly related to you is highly commendable. You not only felt but you also wished to reach out to them and make a difference in their lives is even more praise worthy .
    Keep up with your writing …I’ll be reading all of it.
    Swati you are blessed with a wonderful daughter.

    1. Reshma, Thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement to Stuti. She truly has a powerful voice. I am proud to be her mentor.

  2. The depth of the pain is subtly defined! I hope this creates an impact! Well done Stuti

  3. This was beautifully written!! You have such empathy and compassion for others, and it came through in your writing that is an art!! You are such a beautiful young lady inside and out.

  4. Stuti. I am amazed to read your article projecting in such a depth of empathy for the life a Devdasis. I am extremly proud of my grand daughter who has grown to be a budding thinker and a person who can make a difference in the lives of fellow human beings who need help to come out of centuires old abhorrent dogmas created by the society. Our blessings and support are alway with you.

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