Can you legally separate from your parents? If your company isn’t paying your salary, what to do? What are your maternity leave benefits? Is it legal to get married in a temple? There are many law-related questions that may come up in our minds, but going through long and technical documents may become arduous. Simplifying such basic but important matters of legal rights is Tanya Appachu, a Jammu girl who is a former tax consultant-turned-lawyer and legal content creator on social media.
Even though a significant change in attitude, awareness and perspective has been noted among women, they are easily perceived as being less conscious of their basic rights. In a developing nation like India, where the gender ratio is skewed and literacy rate is in favour of men, women continue to be underrepresented in the society. In such a scenario, Tanya Appachu is on a mission to make more women aware of their rights and laws in a relatable way.
From being raised by a single mother and becoming a lawyer by profession, Tanya Appachu is popular through her Instagram account @yourinstalawyer. She started the page when she was on a career break during pregnancy. She has gained a lot of popularity for her succinct and straightforward explanations of Indian law, with a special focus on women’s rights. She has also been recognized as a changemaker by leading global publications, including Forbes magazine.
In this exclusive interview with HealthShots, Tanya Appachu shares how she started her journey, why she decided to become a lawyer and her work as a content creator.
Became a content creator to educate women about their rights: Tanya Appachu
While Tanya Appachu currently doesn’t represent clients in court, she engages in online legal counselling and other freelancing activities like drafting. “During my years of practice and work, I learned from interacting with new people that although Indian women may be independent and educated, they are not familiar with the fundamentals of legal rights and laws. I thought Instagram was a perfect medium to use to bridge this gap because it allowed me to connect with so many people at once, which I couldn’t do in real life,” she says.
Mother was her inspiration to become a lawyer
When Tanya was all of 4 years old, her parents had got divorced and she was raised by her mother. “I became a lawyer because I wanted to be connected to my father, who was also a lawyer, but he wasn’t in my life. However, as I grew older, I realized how hard it must have been for my mother to raise me single-handedly. After her divorce, my mother was not given alimony, commonly known as financial assistance from her husband, or any other kind of support. This is what inspired me the most to study law so that I could help other women like my mother,” she reveals.
From being a tax consultant to an English teacher and now a content creator, Tanya has switched work profiles multiple times. She says it is difficult, but she believes in the mantra that since you only have one life to live, you should go ahead and accomplish whatever you want to do! “It would be boring or uninteresting to only do one thing for your entire life. I believe that if you give everything you do and put your all into it, you will succeed in it,” she adds.
Gender bias in the field of law in India
Women are being elevated to important positions in the judiciary system across India – whether it is about the Supreme Court getting an all-woman judge bench or being given a chance to be Chief Justices. Still, there are difficulties that female lawyers face in India.
Tanya Appachu says, “Gender bias exists in our sectors. However, since our occupations need us to interact with clients, I believe that the biggest challenge comes from the clients. Clients come with different mindsets, opinions and societies. Also, a majority of clients prefer to work with male attorneys because they believe that men are better able to represent their interests. This reduces the opportunities in this sector for women. Hence, convincing clients that we can do a good job, we can represent them well and we can do it better than anyone else (is a challenge).”
Lack of awareness among women about even basic legal rights
To answer this, Tanya Appachu draws attention to how the larger woman community rarely talk about subjects such as business, politics, world economy, law and order in a social setting. She asserts that everyone must discuss these topics because legal rights are something that affects us in our daily lives and we need to know it.
“Knowing and understanding your legal rights is crucial. The first benefit is that no one can mistreat you or take you for granted. And even if they do, you will know how to respond since you are conscious of what is right and wrong. Secondly, because you are aware, you know how to respond when you are in an unfortunate situation. Lastly, being aware of the law and your rights you the strength to walk away from a bad circumstance in your life or to know what to do next,” Tanya says on a convincing note.
On abortion rights, marital rape and same-sex marriages in India: Will laws change the reality?
“Both married and unmarried women in India have the right to have an abortion up to 24 weeks without obtaining anyone’s permission or consent, thanks to our excellent abortion laws. But when it comes to same sex marriages and marital rape, I believe we still have a long way to go,” she says.
When it comes to any change or a new law to be implemented, it is very important that the citizens of the country have to be ready to accept it. “The people of the country elect the government, which establishes and amends the laws. Therefore, it is essential to change the citizens’ attitudes first, followed by democratically elected parties, and later laws. Yet, this shift will not happen overnight; it will take some time,” she adds.
Top legal concerns of women nowadays
According to Tanya Appachu, most women resort to the law due to problems related to relationship issues. She says, “We all face it in our life. Apart from this, women also take support of law on issues like sexual abuse, harassment and online bullying etc. Since I am a divorce lawyer, I get a lot of queries from women who are suffering from divorce, bad marriages or domestic violence.”
To all women, she has a simple message: All women should understand that knowledge is power. So if you are aware, you are empowered!
(Tanya Appachu is nominated for the Health Shots She Slays Awards in the Social media star (with a cause) category. To vote for her or to review our other nominees, please click here!)