Pinki Virani

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Pinki Virani
Born 1959 (age 58–59)
Bombay, India
Occupation Journalist, writer
Nationality Indian

Pinki Virani (born 30 January 1959) is an Indian writer, journalist, human-rights activist and author who has won critical acclaim for her books Once was Bombay, Aruna's Story, Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India (which won the National Award), and Deaf Heaven.[1] Her fifth book is called Politics of the Womb -- The Perils of Ivf, Surrogacy & Modified Babies. [2]

Early life and education[edit]

Virani was born in Mumbai, India, to Gujarati Muslim parents. Her father owned a shop, and her mother was a teacher. She attended school in Mumbai, Pune and Mussoorie. She went to the US to study for a Masters in Journalism on the Aga Khan Foundation scholarship. She did an internship at The Sunday Times, where she reported extensively on the race riots in Britain.


She started working as a typist at the age of 18. When she returned to India after her scholarship, she worked as a reporter and went on to become India's first woman editor of an evening paper.[citation needed] She moved from daily journalism when she published her first book.


Virani is the author of five books, four of which are non-fiction best-sellers.[citation needed]

  • Aruna's Story is about the rape of a nurse that left her in a coma. The book forms part of a 52-minute documentary, produced by the PSBT, titled 'Passive Euthanasia: Kahaani Karuna Ki'. A play on this book has been performed by Lushin Dubey, directed by Arvind Gaur.
  • Bitter Chocolate is about child sexual abuse in India. A play based on this book was performed by Sutradhar and directed by Vinay Varma.
  • Once Was Bombay is a sociology book which was cited by then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in his speech on collapsing cities.[clarification needed]
  • Deaf Heaven, her first work of fiction, experiments with form and style to warn off the danger of the tipping over of a modern country into neo-fascism. It was nominated for the Impac Dublin Literary Prize.[citation needed] Outlook magazine placed it among the best ten books of the year.[citation needed]
  • In Politics Of The Womb – The Perils Of Ivf, Surrogacy & Modified Babies (2016), Virani criticises IVF and other forms of assisted reproduction when used on women in aggressively repetitive cycles and calls for a worldwide ban on commercial surrogacy and other forms of third-party assisted reproduction [3]

Virani's writings may have contributed to India's Parliament passing a law against sexual abuse of children (The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences) in May 2012.[citation needed] The law includes four of her suggestions to the Standing Committee, it also encompasses several suggestions from her book Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India. The book and a part of its contents has also been quoted in a Madras High Court judgement.[citation needed]

Aruna Shanbaug case[edit]

In 2009, Pinki Virani filed a petition in Supreme Court of India on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse working at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai on 27 November 1973 when she was sexually assaulted by a sweeper.[4] During the attack, Shanbaug was strangled with a chain, and the deprivation of oxygen left her in a vegetative state. She was treated at KEM following the incident and was kept alive by a feeding tube for 48 years, until her death of pneumonia in 2015.[5] In Virani's 2009 petition, she argued that the "continued existence of Aruna is in violation of her right to live in dignity".

On 7th March 2011, the Supreme Court made its decision, in which it issued a set of broad guidelines legalizing passive euthanasia in India. These guidelines for passive euthanesia—i.e. the decision to withdraw treatment, nutrition, or water—establish that the decision to discontinue life support must be taken by parents, spouse, or other close relatives, or in the absence of them, by a "next friend". This decision requires approval from the concerned High Court.

In its judgement, the court declined to recognize Virani as the "next friend" of Aruna Shanbaug, and instead treated the KEM hospital staff as the "next friend."

We do not mean to decry or disparage what Ms. Pinky Virani has done. Rather, we wish to express our appreciation of the splendid social spirit she has shown. We have seen on the internet that she has been espousing many social causes, and we hold her in high esteem. All that we wish to say is that however much her interest in Aruna Shanbaug may be it cannot match the involvement of the KEM hospital staff who have been taking care of Aruna day and night for 38 years.[6]:127-128

Since the KEM Hospital staff wished that Aruna Shanbaug be allowed to live, Virani's petition to withdraw life support was declined. However, the court further stipulated that the KEM hospital staff, with the approval of the Bombay High Court, had the option of withdrawing life support if they changed their mind:

However, assuming that the KEM hospital staff at some future time changes its mind, in our opinion in such a situation the KEM hospital would have to apply to the Bombay High Court for approval of the decision to withdraw life support.[6]:128

As a part of the judgement, the Supreme Court also expressed appreciation for Virani's work:

We also wish to express our appreciation of Ms. Pinki Virani who filed this petition. Although we have dismissed the petition for the reasons given above, we regard her as a public spirited person who filed the petition for a cause she bona fide regarded as correct and ethical. We hold her in high esteem.[6]:140

Personal life[edit]

She is married to Shankkar Aiyar, who is a journalist and the author of Accidental India.[7]



  • Aruna's Story: the true account of a rape and its aftermath. Viking, 1998.
  • Bitter Chocolate: child sexual abuse in India, Penguin Books, 2000
  • Once was Bombay. Viking. 1999. ISBN 0-670-88869-9. 
  • Deaf Heaven, HarperCollins Publishers India, 2009. ISBN 81-7223-849-5.
  • Politics Of The Womb—The Perils Of IVF, Surrogacy & Modified Babies, Penguin Random House, 2016. ISBN 978-0670088720


  1. ^ R. Krithika (19 July 2009). "As we see ourselves". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Egg Commerce". Daily Pioneer. 25 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "Pinki Virani on commercial surrogacy: 'Worst kind of patriarchy posturing as pro-woman choice'". Firstpost. 11 September 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "India court admits plea to end life of rape victim". BBC News, Delhi. 17 December 2009. 
  5. ^ "Aruna Shanbaug: Brain-damaged India nurse dies 42 years after rape". BBC News. 18 May 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c "Supreme Court decision on Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug versus Union of India" (PDF). Supreme Court of India. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  7. ^ "Virani saga". The Tribune. 1 August 2009. 

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