Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the recently deceased sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar and a renowned sitar player in her own right, joined the choir of voices speaking out on behalf of women’s rights on Thursday with a surprising admission that she had suffered sexual abuse as a child.
In a video message filmed in her London apartment, which she dedicated to a 23-year-old medical student who died after being gang raped on a bus by six men in New Delhi last December, Shankar said that she chose to make the revelation public in support of the One Billion Rising campaign meant to protest violence against women.
“As a child, I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years in the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly,” she said in the video posted on YouTube. “Growing up like most women I know I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things like I didn’t know how to deal with… Enough is enough. I am rising.”
“The ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina,” the official website explains. Founded by American feminist playwright Eve Ensler, who penned The Vagina Monologues, the movement has staged worldwide “dance strikes”, flashmobs and protest marches on Valentine’s Day for the past 15 years.
The revelation by 31-year-old UK-born Shankar added momentum to massive V-Day demonstrations staged by Indian protesters who led the global charge yesterday, strongly motivated by the horrific gang rape case in New Delhi last December.
Alongside marches, other demonstrators in India held an open drum circle at sunset on a Mumbai beach and acted out a ceremonial burial of patriarchy and misogyny in the city of Guragaon near New Delhi.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, from Sydney and Auckland to Singapore and Kabul, millions of activists participated in V-Day. To get an idea of just how much action took place around the world yesterday, look here.
Many question if dance is really enough to bring about the sea change needed to achieve greater gender equality around the globe. In an op-ed piece written for the Guardian, Jill Filipovic wrote, “Dancing? That’s all we’ve got to combat the systematic, worldwide oppression and violence that 70% of women will face in their lifetimes? It struck me as too silly, too 70s.”
But in the end, she said the “basic necessity that so many women lack – being safe in our own bodies – is what made me finally come around to the OBR call to dance… And so it’s with our bodies that we should act.”