Sohaila Abdulali: Consent and Power
This discussion includes topics that some viewers may find confronting.
‘We need to put responsibility where it lies, on men who violate women’ Sohaila Abdulali has written, ‘and on all of us who let them get away with it while we point accusing fingers at their victims.’
In 1980, Sohaila Abdulali was 17 years old and living in Mumbai. One night, while out for a walk with a friend, she was captured and raped by four men. Three years after that event, frustrated by the silence around sexual violence, she described the experience in an article for an Indian women’s magazine. ‘Rape is not the woman’s fault, ever,’ she wrote. But it took 32 years before Abdulali’s article became a viral phenomenon, when it was re-posted and circulated online after the fatal attack of another young woman in Delhi in 2012.
In 2019, Abdulali’s voice is again reaching ears across the globe. Her new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, builds on the momentum of #MeToo as well as years of her own meticulous academic research, and work as a coordinator at a rape crisis centre. It’s a personal book about her own horrific experiences, but it’s also about the social systems and structures that enable widespread sexual assault while discouraging speaking out.
At the Wheeler Centre with Jane Gilmore, she talks power, consent and the global dimensions of #MeToo.
Sohaila Abdulali was born in Bombay (now Mumbai). She is the author of two novels, The Madwoman of Jogare (HarperCollins, 1998) and The Year of the Tiger (Penguin, 2010) as well as children’s books, short stories, editorials, columns, and news stories. She lives in New York with her husband and their daughter.
Jane Gilmore is a freelance journalist, with a strong focus on data journalism and male violence. She was the founding editor of The King’s Tribune, and now writes regularly for the Sydney Morning Herald. She has been published by the Guardian, Meanjin, the Age, the Saturday Paper, News.com.au and Junkee, among many others.