An author uses crime fiction to focus on women’s issues

The anti rape laws to check crimes against women might not be able to bring about a big difference unless there is a change in the Indian mindset, said Kishwar Desai. Journalist-turned-author Desai has written three crime fiction books focusing on women’s issues.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, now has provisions for increased sentences for rape convicts, including life-term and death sentence, besides providing for stringent punishment for offences such as acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism.

Speaking at a book signing event in Kolkata recently, Desai said, “Passing a law will not make a difference. The real difference has to be brought about in the Indian mindset. There is a need for social reforms.”

Desai’s first book, Witness the Night that dealt with the issue of female foeticide, won her the Costa First Book Award. Her second book, The Origins of Love, dealt with the issue of commercial surrogacy.

The Sea of Innocence is the third book in Desai’s lady-sleuth Simran Singh series. It deals with the issues of sexual violence and rape in India.

Set in Goa, the book begins with Simran Singh receiving a disturbing video on her phone of a young girl being attacked by a group of men. She soon discovers that the girl is Liza Kay, a British teenager who has gone missing.

“A lot of people have asked me if my book is inspired by the Nirbhaya case. I finished writing the book in August last year, much before that incident occurred. But as I was working on the final edit I have made references to that case,” she said.

“Not just in India but across the world there is tremendous pressure on little girls who are beginning to get sexualised at very early ages. Their childhood and innocence is being snatched away too early and brutally. We need to deal and address these issues,” she said.  

Women in the country are marginalised in all aspects – whether in literature, art or cinema, she said. “They (women) do not have a representational space in society. There is discrimination and violence at each sphere of life,” she said.  

India can become a superpower only if it takes on board the aspirations of women. “Even now in India, women are either asked to shut up or married off early. There is a need to create awareness about women’s rights. We should work as a team and create pressure groups to bring about a change in the situation,” she said. 

According to Desai, her books aim to bring faith on the formal justice system. “It may be an unjust society, but through my books I want to give people hope of getting retribution through the formal justice system.”

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