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'Positively Shameless': A Play Challenging Child Sexual Abuse

“My uncle abused me when I six,” recalled a girl during her performance at IIFT auditorium in Delhi. While some might think that it was just a theatrical performance, it was actually a real life experience shared by the actor, in a therapeutic manner.

Nitisha Kashyap | CNN-News18

Updated:February 20, 2017, 9:30 PM IST
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'Positively Shameless': A Play Challenging Child Sexual Abuse
“My uncle abused me when I six,” recalled a girl during her performance at IIFT auditorium in Delhi. While some might think that it was just a theatrical performance, it was actually a real life experience shared by the actor, in a therapeutic manner.

New Delhi: “My uncle abused me when I six,” recalled a girl during her performance at IIFT auditorium in Delhi. While some might think that it was just a theatrical performance, it was actually a real life experience shared by the actor, in a therapeutic manner.

Recalling the sexual abuse she faced as a child, in front of strangers sitting as an audience, needs a lot of courage. This group of five women who were invited to Delhi to perform a play, which is based on their personal experience, calls it a ‘therapy’. The play is a combination of art and therapy.

They were invited by the Delhi Police as part of the Police Week celebration. The play titled “Positively Shameless” is a story of five women, who recreate on stage, what they endured during their childhood. The performance is interactive.

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Directed by Maitri Gopalkrishna and Sabri Rao, the play aims to start a conversation on child sexual abuse. Maitri herself is a counselling psychologist. Some of the actors either work as a counsellor or activists.

The group chose to engage with issues revolving around child sexual abuse through theatre.

They narrated their ordeal -- what happened to them, how the society dealt with it, more importantly, how they dealt with the society and people around.

In one section of the play, the actor musters the courage to share the child abuse incident with her mother, but to no avail. Her mother asks her to “keep quiet or not to think about it”.

In another section, the woman refuses to go back to her house with her cousin because he abuses her. But no one understands why she is refusing to go with him. She is asked to do whatever the elders ask her to do, highlighting how sometimes, it is the elders in the family who sexually abuse the child.

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The play delves into the nitty-gritty of child abuse. How a mother asks her child ‘not to think’ about what happened to her, how the parents still allow the uncle who sexually abused the child just because they can’t confront him, the way a dupatta is put around the girl child to save her from stares, why the dress worn by the girl is always wrong and not the person who is staring or misbehaving, how the girl is suppressed and asked not to speak out about the sexual abuse because, “What people will say or think?”

The play doesn’t only look at the child sexual abuse as a subject but the discussion also includes patriarchy and gender – two major social problems.

The play was houseful in Delhi and the audience not only included art lovers but people from different walks of life. Among the audience were RP Upadhyay, joint commissioner of police, Ishwar Singh, deputy commissioner of police, Chinmoy Biswal, additional deputy commissioner and Manishi Chandra, addition deputy commissioner. Other officials included the station house officers and assistant commissioners.

Before the commencement of discussion, Sabri smilingly said that they would have closed the auditorium gates like they do in other cities, “but it wouldn’t be advisable keeping in mind we are the guests of Delhi Police.”

The discussion on the child sexual abuse started with many in audience co-relating it to their own or with their friends’ experience. Some even asked for the solution to curb such incidents. A woman working with an NGO shared the experience of her friend -- how the abuser still visits her friend’s house and how difficult it is for the friend.

| Edited by: Mirza Arif Beg
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