Storyteller: Shivana Jorawar

Location: New York,  New York

Growing up Hindu, I didn’t eat beef, and I always wondered what burgers tasted like. “Is it like chicken but…browner?” I pondered.  But I never broke the rules, because I knew I would get in trouble with my parents. This combination of curiosity and caution — a simultaneous interest in and questioning of the values of my people — exemplified my attitude towards Hinduism throughout my childhood, especially when it came to ideas about women and their sexuality. When I became pregnant as a teenager, I only told two friends. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents, and the thought of my community finding out made my stomach churn. Like Sita, who was set ablaze in order to prove her fidelity to Ram, was still exiled to the forest for 12 years, I knew I would end up standing trial and banished. I’d be labeled a pariah in my family and community. I’d be held up as an example of what young women should aspire not to become.

When I decided to have an abortion, my religion’s cultural expectation of purity was swirling in my mind. I knew I wasn’t ready to parent, that to try to do so would cause my dreams to come crashing down. I also knew that going through with the pregnancy would expose that I had done the most shameful thing: sex. After my abortion, I moved away from home. I read literature by feminists of color and built a circle of friends who supported me to be my most authentic self. Knowing there were others out there like me, and that they weren’t ashamed, really changed my perspective and helped me on my journey.

Stories by Shivana Jorawar

Shivana’s Abortion Story

Growing up Hindu, the message was clear: men could enjoy sex, women could not. I broke the rules anyway; I knew I could not be caged in like some animal controlled by the village of aunties, uncles, and the temple community, always watching me, reminding me how to be a “respectable” woman. A budding feminist, … Continue reading