#Iam16IcanRapeWhen the nation was rudely woken up from its slumber by the brutal savage Nirbhaya Rape, I overnight graduated from a worried mother to a paranoid one. I will not deny that I have lost faith in men and look at every man other than my husband and father as potential rapists. With this frame of mind, when I heard about this new book inspired from Nirbhaya, I had decided not to read it assuming it to be another frivolous ‘masala-story’.

Then the author, Kirtida Gautam, asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the book. Honestly, I am honoured that the author placed such faith in me.

Kirtida Gautam, a clinical psychologist and an alumna of FTII, Pune did an extensive research on the rape laws of the country and knows her subject psychology well.

When the courier guy delivered the book, I did not start reading it immediately because the word ‘Rape’ gives me a headache. But once I started reading, I wanted to see where the story led to.

The story revolves around a 16 year old Aarush accused of rape. Each and every person who interacts with Aarush has been given a distinct voice in the story and story inches forward with all the characters of the story contributing in the character sketch and thought process of the accused.

The typical thoughts prevalent in the society have been brought forward in the story that for every rape committed it is the girl who is blamed and not the perpetrator. The author has identified through victim of the story how the society instead of sympathising and standing by the victim withdraws emotional and social support making rape a stigma for the victim”

May be it was my wishful thinking or influence of hindi movies which made me hope for a happy ending and triumph of good over bad but the end of the story was closer to the reality of the society. However being a fiction some things have been exaggerated like the stand of grandfather of accused. The grandfather’s attitude towards the whole incident is that of a compassionate and righteous person that is so desirable but again he is not what real society is made of….I would be so happy to see men like Rudransh Kashyap, the grandfather, in real life who believe in standing for what is right. But alas…

Some chapters on psychology are bit too heavy for me but then those are required to understand the complex character of the accused. Again because the work is a fiction, hence the ability of the accused to think through is understood but in real world men indulging in such heinous actions might not be even half as intelligent.

Author has raised the issue that while we instil the fear of rape, of strangers and of going alone somewhere in our daughters but then why we do not scare our sons of the consequences of raping a woman? Why we let our girls express all their emotions but dissuade boys to show emotions of fear and vulnerability thus forcing them to bottle up and in the process become frustrated? We stop our daughters to go out alone at night but why we do not teach our sons to respect and protect women?

By the time I finished the story, I was angry and felt murderous. The recent news of acquittal of the accused juvenile of the Nirbhaya’s case added fuel to the fire and I felt the need to stand against the juvenile rape laws of our country. I felt hatred against those politicians who have so carelessly given opinion that boys make mistake when they are growing up…

Rape is not the fault of women and not some ordinary mistake by men…it is an unforgivable crime and those who violate a woman’s body must be punished with an equal magnitude.

Author has handled the issue very delicately. The book is quite a tough read due to the topic itself along with serious psychology…not for readers who want a quick racy story. A poignant and thought-provoking book.

7 Things That Define Freedom For Women This Independence Day….

This article has been published at HuffingtonPost India titled “An Independence Day for Women”

I am one of those fortunate few who was born to loving and educated parents who did not find it a burden to raise two daughters when everybody around them was hoping they would plan another pregnancy to beget a male child; who sent their girls for higher education and made them engineers; who let their daughters choose their life-partners irrespective of religion or community; who taught them to stand up against any injustice; who did not believe in paying dowry for ensuring their daughter’s safety and respect….

But for the majority of women, the time stands still…. Honour-killings still happen, female-feticides still snuff out the innocent life, education is still denied, wife’s consent to sex is still disregarded, courts refuse to discuss marital rape issues, people in power still blame women for the crimes against them, forgetting that a nun or the five-year-olds do not behave in a way to entice or lure the rapists, lawyers defend the molesters to dodge punishments….

My daughter is growing up in today’s world. Soon she will be old enough, refusing to be chaperoned at all times… She would want to see the world and explore all opportunities before settling down in a career or selecting her partner. Even if I as a parent grant her all the liberty, will the so-called moral guardians of the society let her be?

After 68 years of Independence, shouldn’t women be free of the tyrannical male and his rules? What does it really mean for us, the women, on this 69th Independence Day of our country?

I believe true independence would be when all women have FREEDOM from:

  • Being aborted…when birth of a girl child is also considered a blessing and brings equal joy to parents…when people stop wishing for birth of their ‘heir’ …that would be freedom.
  • Being judged for clothes they wear…all girls in skirts or shorts are not ‘asking for it’. They are not immoral. If men looked in the eye when speaking to a woman and not stare at her chest or bare legs….that would be freedom!
  • Being attacked or punished for thwarting advances of a lusting perverted man… women are not sex toys…when a girl or a woman steps out of her home without the fear of being attacked by acid, being raped or beaten for refusing sex….that would be freedom!
  • Being killed for falling in love…. When caste, religion, language, community are no longer hindrances in choosing a life partner…when no woman is prescribed death for marrying outside community… that would mean  liberation for women.
  • Being banned from religious places for having periods. Puberty is a gift from the Gods to women to nurture future life…it is neither their shame, nor punishment and definitely not anything impure.
  • Being denied higher education. When every little girl can dream to become a teacher, a pilot, doctor, engineer…when people stop assigning kitchen and four walls of a house as the only domain of women…when women can opine about financial and other matters at every home… that would bring freedom.
  • Being punished for Dowry… When ‘Arranged Marriages’ will do away with dowry…when all that a marriage ceremony would mean blessings and love only…when the mother-in-law, being a woman herself, will stand by her daughter-in-law at every step in her new beginnings…when brides won’t be burned or forced to commit suicides…that day would be a free day.

When women will not be the birds with clipped wings, but kites soaring in sky with gay abandon into the winds of change….that would truly be the INDEPENDENCE DAY!!