Poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar attended the launch of the book.
Eleven years after the savage gang-rape of a woman on a bus in Delhi stirred a nation in slumber, what does it feel like to be a woman in India? A hard-hitting collection of essays hoping to spark such conversations about gender, law, and social change in India was launched on Saturday.
'In the Body of a Woman', authored by Aaliya Waziri, an advocate at the High Court of Delhi, explores legal feminism, gender inequality, and the impact of the 2012 Delhi gang rape on the Indian society, providing insights and potential solutions to the challenges faced by women in the country.
Among those present at the launch were Supreme Court judge Justice Shripathi Ravindra Bhat, Professor Charu Sharma of the OP Jindal Global University, and poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar.
The book's introduction features a heart-wrenching account of a daughter recounting her mother's virtual "auction" on the controversial Bulli Bai app, setting the stage for a critical examination of the deep-rooted issues women encounter in the country.
"I am a 26-year-old Indian woman and I live with the horrors of the brutal 2012 Delhi gang rape that shook the world. They say injustice never lives forever. They're wrong. Brutality does. Insanity does. Inhumanity does. Fear is palpable. It's something we women carry. We also carry pain. There is an indescribable pain that hits me when I read or think about the incident. This essay is not intended to be read as a eulogy. Neither is this a sermon. It is a reflection of how we as a society have fared in the last decade," it reads.
At the launch event, Ms Waziri said that "In the Body of a Woman" began as a collection of essays she penned during her legal career, both at the United Nations and while practising law in Delhi courts.
"I began writing to fill a void that had emerged where gender-responsive literature answering loopholes within the laws should have existed," she told NDTV.
The book challenges readers to move beyond discussions about women's issues and focus on concrete actions to address the challenges they face.
"For a long time, I pondered over whether there exists a toolbox for legal feminism. Or a piece of legal literature that goes beyond critiquing the legislative apertures and instead offers a solution to the problem at hand?" Ms Waziri said.
"Naturally, the question that arose was: How do we move beyond charitable conversations surrounding women? The prompt was simple: We take steps towards concrete measures as opposed to stop-gap solutions," she added.
The book delves into issues such as women's choices in terminating pregnancies, which often stem from fear of social stigma and potential ostracism. Ms Waziri argues that the root of such choices is gender inequality, making it a critical conversation in contemporary society.
"I wrote this book because law and gender are two rivers, and culture is the bridge that we use to cross the intersection of the current that flows beneath it. This book is as much about that intersection as what occurs on the banks of these rivers, the lives they touch and the crops they harvest," Ms Waziri said.
"This book pivots on the idea that legal feminism is contextual. That there is no straitjacket formula to fix all the woes of women, but we can start by strengthening our institutional responses by, first and foremost, not treating women as second-class citizens of the country," the author added.