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Anusha Rizvi: You can’t make victims of men just because the rape-count in  the jails is low!

Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui
Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui Source: Google.com

Filmmaker  Anusha Rizvi Whose Husband Mahmood Farooqui Was Acquitted  By The Honourable High Court Last Year Has Now Been Exonerated  By The Honourable Supreme Court. She  Talks With Subhash K Jha On  Her Trauma Of  Fighting For  Her Husband’s Innocence and On  The Current Atmosphere Of  Witch-Hunting.

Anusha, has it sunk in, that your husband is finally and irrevocably a free man?

(quietly) No.  No not yet. It hasn’t sunk in. Mahmood and I were sitting together at home when the lawyer called to tell us the Supreme Court’s verdict. I can’t put into words what I feel..what we feel…These last few years have been….

Traumatizing?

Yes, to say the least. And I’ve learnt so much about the laws  of our land. You and I don’t understand the language  of the law at all. We are not supposed to. There are experts who are supposed  to understand the law. In the past  few years I’ve tried to understand  the legal  process. I am not  fully clued  in. But I do know  that we really must stop misusing  the legal procedure.

What  do you mean?

I mean,what has  changed since the Nirbhaya case?Little children are being brutally  raped and murdered in Haryana. What are we doing about that? Instead the focus is  on celebrity cases  because  they get  the  eyeballs. But many of these celebrity cases are nothing but relationships gone wrong or as in the case  of  Aziz Ansari,  a date gone wrong…I mean look at that whole thing with Aziz Ansari.What are we doing?

Did you at any time feel your husband may be guilty  of the rape that he was accused of?

(falls silent). Look, anything I  say will make me sound like one of those defensive wives of rape accused who insist on their  husband’s innocence even when  all  evidence indicates  otherwise. In my husband’s case there was  no evidence at  all of any crime.

You  mean, you feel it was  a consensual relationship gone wrong?

 I am not even saying that.I am not saying that at all. The courts  could find no evidence to  support her  claim at all.And mind you, the courts didn’t even consider  our arguments. It was only her allegations that were studied by the  courts and  these  indicated no guilt .

Anusha, there is  a lot of witch-hunting  going on .Men are scared to even pay  a compliment  or crack a joke with women they’ve known for years?

Look, I am all for women coming forward to speak of sexual harassment. Why should they not speak? For  centuries now  women have been given a raw  deal.But how do we define sexual harassment? What are  the boundaries and  the  restrictions that must not be  crossed?And who decides  these  boundaries? I am a feminist,  and  not  just in   theory.I’ve spent  a lot of time  fighting for gender equality. But gender equality doesn’t men should be hauled over the  coals  for relationships gone  wrong, or even  a date  gone wrong. When Mahmoodwas in jail I  would visit him and meet so many young men from  well-to-do backgrounds , holding terrific  jobs blessed with dreamy  lives, now in jail because their relationship ended badly and they were accused  of rape.

It is  terrifying?

It is. I  truly believe  2013 was a watershed year for rape laws.Suddenly the equations changed. But you can’t make victims of  men  just because the rape-count in  the jails  is  low. A woman should think  of what she is doing when she accuses a  man of  a sex crime. When a  man goes to jail his whole family goes to jail with him. The women in the family go to jail with the man of the house. The wife  goes to jail.I was  locked away  with my husband. That’s how it felt.

How have  you come  out of the ordeal?

She(the rape accuser) had a powerful  money machinery and  international organizations  working behind her in the courts. We  had no money.If I had to spend money on fighting the case I’d be financially ruined. Luckily for me and Mahmood  our lawyers  fought our casepro bono. They didn’t charge a  single penny.Yes, that’s how  they believed  in my husband’s innocence after studying the  case.But we both lost something much more valuable than money during the legal crisis.

What is that?

Mahmood  and I both lost our fathers. My father saw me  suffer but went knowing that my husband was declared not guilty by the courts.But  Mahmood’s father went without knowing his son was cleared  by the courts. It is  a burden we will all live with all our lives.Who is  going to give us back the time and  loved ones that we’ve lost?

How has  this  experience impacted  your marriage?

How do I explain this to you? I’ve known Mahmood for decades. He was my friend before he was  my husband. He is not capable of any violence. When I say this, I speak not as  a wife but a friend who knows everything about him.He cannot hurt  an animal, let alone  a human being.My marriage  could never be affected by this. We are two friends married to one another.We  know each other in and  out.

Let me  end  where I started. Do you think the current campaign  in Hollywood  against sexual harassment  is a  good  movement?

It is great  that  women and men are addressing the issue of gender  politics and sexual boundaries. But  somewhere  we  need to draw a  line between  sex crimes and imagined versions of it. Please  think it out before making an allegation. When  a man  is accused of  a  sex crime his entire family suffers with him.

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