‘Our time has come’

Vagina Monologues writer Eve Ensler, in India after three years, is thrilled to see angry women on the streets.

When US-based playwright and women’s rights activist Eve Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues 16 years ago, she couldn’t imagine the “extraordinary, mind boggling, vaginal opening journey” it would put her through.

The 59-year-old, who is visiting India after three years to promote large-scale protests against atrocities women face as part of the One Billion Rising campaign, is devastated about the death of the girl who was gang raped in a moving Silver Line bus in New Delhi, two weeks ago. “When I turned on the television, a news anchor announced that she died a ‘peaceful death’. There was nothing peaceful about it. She didn’t deserve to die. She was way too young. She deserved to live,” says the Tony awardwinning playwright.

On Saturday, Ensler — who arrived the day the protests against the Munirka gang rape began — participated in a candle vigil at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, to mourn the victim’s death. This is precisely the kind of violence that Ensler, a rape survivor, is protesting in the local/global campaign, One Billion Rising, which will be launched on February 14, 2013. “I want women from around the world to walk out of their homes, colleges, schools, and offices at the same time, sing, dance and speak out against the injustice they have faced,” she says. One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, says Ensler, who began working with rape victims, from around the world, nearly three decades ago.

“One in five women in the US military is raped by their male colleagues and nothing is done about it. In Bulgaria, I met a girl who was trafficked by a group of policemen but not before she was gang raped. Several Dalit women are raped in this country, but this particular Delhi incident has become a catalyst for an uprising. For how long will we stay quiet?”

After a few seconds of silence, she says, “Our time has come. We will be heard.” What leads to such grotesque violence against women? “Shame has a lot to do with it. In places like Congo, men are shamed on account of economic impoverishment and racism. This affects the psyche and makes the person want to shame another with less power,” she replies.

“Some men see women as objects that can be violated. How do you explain shoving a rod into a woman’s vagina? What the hell is going on? There’s definitely something wrong with the way we are bringing up our boys,” she continues. Ensler says we need to teach boys about “feeling, love and sensitivity”. “We only tell them to cut off their heart, leaving them with a warped sense of sexuality. I don’t think men understand what it is to give pleasure to a woman.”

Ensler defines equality as the right to say no, choose marriage partners, express one’s sexuality, and find access to education. Yet, as is evident, there are several who are brutalised for asserting these rights. But Ensler is hopeful. “I sense a different energy from the time I last visited India.”

North Bay/Petaluma Rises!

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