Personal stories of sexual violence enacted on stage

IANS| Updated: Mar 24, 2014, 17:11 PM IST

New Delhi: The attack on and death of the Dec 16, 2012 gang rape victim was a tipping point for people everywhere to speak up, said South African-origin director Yael Farber whose latest production features tales of sexual violence.

"Nirbhaya Breaking the Silence" is a testimony of five women who highlight personal experiences of sexual harassment on public transport and on the streets of urban India.

Along with this, the story of the Dec 16, 2012 gang rape victim too will be enacted Monday during the performance that will take place at FICCI auditorium in New Delhi. The young woman, who was raped by five men and a juvenile in a moving private bus Dec 16 last year, died of her injuries nearly a fortnight after the assault.

"As the five women on stage tell their own stories of sexual violence by sharing their personal experiences, this creates the act of speaking out. Thus refusing to bear the silence and shame that sexual violence imposes upon its survivors," Farber told IANS in an email interview.

"The challenge is to honour the remarkable young woman who lost her life in this horrific attack and carry the legacy of fearlessness forward," she added.

The play was first premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013, and this is the first time it has come to India. It was staged in Mumbai and will now travel to Bangalore.

The production features seven women, including 'Delhi Belly' actress Poorna Jagannathan, TV actor Priyanka Bose, hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani and acid attack survivor Sneha Jawale.

Enacting the story of the gang rape victim are Japjit Kaur and Ankur Vikal who create a blistering account of what happened on the fateful night of Dec 16, 2012.

"It is clear that what happened on that fateful night was the game changer because the media and thus the nation gave it their full attention," Farber said.

"If this production does not inspire strong reactions then we have not done our job. We want to mobilize, to catalyze, to move, to act, make ready, marshal and set in motion what was triggered by her death," she added.

Farber, who now lives in Montreal, has previously captured human spirit of survival, redemption and change through her productions 'Amajuba', 'Women in Waiting' and 'He Left Quietly'.

She hopes the Delhi gang rape and public anger that followed this tragedy converts into action.

"Righteous rage has to become action. It has to be taken forward, or it creates an even greater sense of helplessness than before. If real change in the wake of her death is not provoked then something more horrifying will happen," she said.

"It will take that much more brutality to break the sound barrier again. Women and men must break the silence that binds survivors to guilt and shame. These emotions belong with the perpetrator, not the survivor," she added.