Kalki Koechlin, who has been in the news for the past couple of weeks due to her forthcoming film “Margerita, With a Straw” got a different kind of attention when she chose to speak about suffering from sexual abuse as a child. Kalki, known for her free-spirited stand on social issues close to her heart has been in the news earlier for being a part of a satirical sketch by the comedy group AIB highlighting the chauvinistic attitude Indian women are regularly susceptible to in Indian society.
On this occasion, the firebrand actress wrote on a post in the Facebook page of “Humans of Bombay”,—a page fashioned after the “Humans of New York” —“The reason I spoke out about my sexual abuse is not to get people to feel sorry for me but to give others who have had similar circumstances the confidence to talk about it.”
Recently, there seems to have been a coming out of sorts about this sensitive issue when Poorna Jagannathan, the actor recognized for her role in “Delhi Belly” (2011), took to the platform provided by World Bank to emphasize on the same issue. In a video series titled “WEvolve” Jagannathan shared her experiences of being manhandled by an alcoholic father and later surviving sexual abuse from a family friend at the vulnerable age of nine.
Kalki has previously participated in events like All Indian Conference for Child Sexual Abuse organized by fellow actor Rahul Bose to raise awareness on the issue. She explained how not only her but a childhood friend too had been the victim of sexual abuse. She stressed on the shaming that Indian society associates with such taboo matters and confessed how more than being concerned with the violence that the experience entailed she was frightened about her mother finding out about it.
Like with everything trending on social media the incident also got a couple of cynical responses where people dished Kalki’s write-up as just another publicity stunt effectively timed to promote her film. Clearly such people were ignorant of the actor’s previous activism on this matter. Besides, she didn’t simply stop at speaking about it but advised contemporary parents to opt for a more open attitude and educate their children on the dangers of sexual abuse which mostly comes from people familiar to the children, like a family member or friend or an apparently friendly neighbour.
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), by UNESCO statistics, is more prevalent in India where parents do not practice an open culture of sensitizing children on such issues. The more alarming fact such incidents are not restricted to the female gender but affects male children too.
Incidentally, Kalki’s estranged husband, Anurag Kashyap had also opened up about suffering from CSA for eleven long years. To bring the matter out in the open Kashyap had also played the character of a sexual abuser in one of the four segments of Onir’s film about margins and identities, “I Am” (2010).
The issue has also been dealt with in Imitiaz Ali’s critically acclaimed “Highway” (2014). The film effectively burst the fake bubble of security audiences have by showing the privileged character of a rich industrialist’s daughter facing abuse. More recently the issue has also been broached in Amir Khan’s TV show “Satyamev Jayate”.
Recent ordinances in this sphere—The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO)—provide legal recourses for such incidents but mere legal remedies do not seem enough in such an atmosphere of repression. Parents should be sensitized about the perils they are exposing their children to by not making them aware of the ‘wrong kind of touch’ they can be subjected to. If parents opt for awareness drives they would be saving their children from being scarred with such silent abuse.