Kishwar Desai on rape in India

kishwar_desai_20110131Kishwar Desai doesn’t look angry. In her bright, London home where books spill from their shelves to half-fill the floor, she is friendly, cheerful and hospitable – plumping cushions and pressing me to have another cup of tea. But, she tells me, it was pure fury at violence against women that turned her into a novelist.

A story about female infanticide led the former journalist and TV executive to write her first novel in 2010, and she has gone on to write two more pacey detective novels, channelling her outrage into a charismatic, if unlikely protagonist – the chain-smoking, whisky-drinking female social worker, Simran Singh.

In Witness the Night, which won the Costa first novel award and was longlisted for the Man Asian literary prize, Singh investigated a crime involving sex-selective infanticide and foeticide, while Origins of Love highlighted the exploitation of impoverished women in the surrogacy industry. Both were bestsellers in India. Now, in The Sea of Innocence, Singh is back and this time Desai has focused on sexual violence and rape – something she says is becoming “endemic” in India.

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