ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Women’s bodies on stage: Indian performances against violence.


Khalil Randa - Sapienza, SARAS, ROMA, Italy


21- Panel Title: Violence against women in South Asian countries


 In the last decades, violence against Indian women has become a more discussed subject in several fields and has become more often the centre of debates. Against this background, theatre performances and art became important tools of discussion and a way to denounce violence against women’s bodies.

In 2003 the Indian director Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal decided to bring to India Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues (1996) to break the Indian taboos about sexuality and women’s body. Through her adaptation of the play, the artist managed to operate a shift in the significance of the word yoni, ‘vagina’ in hindī. In this work the Vagina is represented as a symbol of women’s empowerment and freedom: no longer unmentionable, the vagina starts talking and being talked about freely and provocatively.

After the two gang rapes in New Delhi (2012) and Mumbai (2013) another performer, Mallika Taneja, has decided to perform on stage her pièce Be Careful to deconstruct the discourse in which women’s clothes and behaviors are considered the causes for men’s violence. The artist represents her body naked on stage and performs a monologue while covering herself as a “ball of clothes”.

Drawing on these two case studies, this paper will analyze the importance of theatre and performances in representing women’s bodies and claiming freedom in public spaces.