American play on violence against women travels to India
Kolkata: American play "Voices of Men", which uses humour and celebrity voice impressions to highlight issues of violence against women, is now travelling to India and will also be translated to Telugu and Nepali.
American educator and public speaker Ben Atherton-Zeman, who has performed the one-man play in different parts of the world during the last ten years, says he wants to pass on a message to men in India where violence against women is a burning issue.
During his ongoing maiden India tour, the 48-year-old is performing in cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Vijayawada.
"I am reaching out to as many people as possible with the performances in different cities. The response has been very good and a youth theatre group in Hyderabad is translating it in Telugu while it is also being translated into Nepali langauge," Zeman said.
During his Kolkata trip he showcased his engaging play at the American Center addressing issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, objectification and sexual harassment.
"Gender-based violence is prevalent all over the world and the idea of the play is that when I use humour to express my thoughts people will listen more to what I am saying," Zeman said.
So far, it has been performed more than a thousand times all over the world. During his India tour, he is also discussing the issue with Indian NGOs, feminists and victims of gender-based violence.
While making the play humourous he says he is careful enough not to cross the line where it might hurt a woman's feelings. "That happens because I am myself very serious about the issue. I have learnt to express myself in a humorous way from American feminist icons," said Zeman, who identifies himself as a "recovering sexist".
He uses humour and celebrity male voice impressions as a tool to spread awareness on the need to stop asking questions to the victims and instead start raising questions on how safety can be created for womenfolk. "Blaming the victim happens everywhere and not just in India. The rights of women must be treated as human rights," the campaigner said. However, he doesn't consider himself as an expert on gender-based violence.
"It all started when a girlfriend told me that she had been raped by her previous boyfriend. I started thinking about the issue and it made me mad and then I started volunteering for a women's centre," Zeman said. He has worked as a prevention educator for rape crisis centres and domestic violence programmes. His second play 'Men's Monologues Against Violence' features real men and boys who have taken specific steps to stop gender-based violence.