Women’s rights and equality became the focal point of best-selling author Chetan Bhagat’s HT-sponsored session at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Diggi Palace on Sunday, with the writer saying that it’s more of a cultural issue than legal.
"As far as women’s rights are concerned, the laws are all there. There are no laws which say men have more rights than women. In fact, some say, certain laws are biased towards women. But implementation of these laws is the problem," said Bhagat who was in conversation with Editor-in-chief, Literary Publishing, Random House India, Meru Gokhale.
Bhagat added that the government and the law can only go to a certain extent as far as women’s issues were concerned. "The problem," he said, "lies with people’s thinking. Brutal crimes against women are on the extreme side of things. But even on the general level there are problems as far as equal status for women is concerned."
Bhagat, whose literary career started off after the publication of the novel Five Point Someone in 2004, said that he always tries to create strong and independent female characters in his novels and Bollywood screenplays. "Whenever I get a chance I create a female character who is a role model of sorts," said Bhagat, while a video montage of female Bollywood characters fleshed out of his writing—from films like 3 idiots, Two States, One Night at the Call Centre and Kick –played on the screen. Bhagat said that he would love to write a novel from the viewpoint of a woman.
"The fight for women’s rights does not need to be a ‘men versus women’ fight," the writer said, explaining that it was a problem he found with feminism. He added that until men join women in fighting for equality the problem would not be solved.
Continuing with the discussion when a school student from the audience asked Bhagat why religious texts tend to put the blame on women, for example that of Eve taking a bite from the forbidden fruit, Bhagat was taken aback. "Most religious texts tend to be that way, keeping men at the front," he said, congratulating the boy. He said irrespective of the status of religious texts, the question of women’s equality must be treated as the most important.
Bhagat, who has under his belt seven best-selling books, has often been criticised for his style and content. On that, the writer said that he was not one of those people who write to achieve artistic perfection. "The primary reasons for which I write are to reach people and bring change in society."
On joining politics, Bhagat said that he did not want to join politics as long as he was in a position where his columns are taken seriously and change is affected. "If I’m in a position from where I can scream and politicians are forced to listen to me, I’m happy," he said.