Classical Indian dance helps trafficking victims to heal, study shows

Wed Feb 24, 2016 5:02am EST
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Classical Indian dance could be an effective form of therapy for victims of human trafficking and sexual violence, helping them to overcome their traumatic experiences and gain confidence, a pilot study has shown.

The six-month study of 50 female survivors in Kolkata and Mumbai found that dance movement therapy helped ease anxiety, depression, anger and post-traumatic stress when used alongside traditional counseling and other rehabilitation efforts.

"Often, in the rehabilitation of victims of trafficking and sexual violence, the impact on the body can be overlooked," said Sohini Chakraborty, the founder and director of Kolkata Sanved, a charity which carried out the research.

"Dance is about the body, and the women are somewhat familiar with these dance forms, so we can help them heal and create a more positive body image," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The rehabilitation of victims in India is often inadequate and inconsistent in a culture that does not encourage women to speak up or seek counseling, women's rights groups say.

Yet gender-based violence remains high in the country, with more than 330,000 reported cases of crimes against women in 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

The biggest ever survey of the health of human trafficking victims last year found high levels of abuse and severe physical and psychological health problems among survivors in Southeast Asia.

The notion of dance as therapy has been increasingly recognized over the years, due to the efforts of institutions such as the American Dance Therapy Association, founded in 1966. Studies have shown it enhances the emotional, cognitive, physical and social well-being of the individual.   Continued...

Dancers perform a classical dance during a function in Chandigarh, July 28, 2006. REUTERS/Ajay Verma