(New Delhi) “I used to be a full-time practicing lawyer but I always felt it was a limited application of what I could do as a lawyer. Now I train grassroots activists, the police, the state agencies, people working in NGOs and anyone who needs to use the law.
My first workshop with rural and semi-literate women was a defining moment for me. When I saw the women making the co-relation between the laws and their lives, I knew what I wanted to do professionally. I felt as if the universe had conspired to get me this opportunity and I felt like I always wanted to do this work.
Interacting with rural or illiterate women is a jump in your own learning. Their minds are uncluttered and free from forced logic and ideology. There is a fascination with the fact that what they find reasonable and logical is also written in our laws. One of the earliest examples was in the early 90s, soon after an Act was passed to restrict a Muslim woman’s right to maintenance. When we started discussing that, as per a new law, a Muslim woman has a limited right to maintenance from her husband, all participants, Hindus and Muslims, objected and threw back our own session on Rule of Law and constitutional limitations on the power to make laws, arguing that when no law is made at the expense of someone else’s rights, then how did they make such a law? We have not yet come across a single woman who supports restrictions on the right to maintenance for Muslim women. They come up with interesting points like, “when, in a Muslim marriage, they ask the bride for “kabuli” (acceptance),, then why not for a divorce? Here is a simple logic in one clear sentence.These are all amazing jurisprudential responses.
Similarly, when we were doing a programme in Rajasthan, there was a really old woman who would always sit with a long veil. We gave them a case study suggesting that a law is made that men can roam around any time of day or night, but women, after sunset must be chaperoned by a male, even if it’s a small boy. The old woman just threw back her veil and asked with blazing eyes as to who has made such a law. This reaction is pure instinct. I work to bring out what they already know.
Every interaction is a personal growth for me and is an avenue to reach out to more and more people at different levels to explain the beauty of the law and the Constitution. I take every platform: sitting by the roadside or in a 5-star hotel. Everyone needs legal information.” (1/3)