Gay rights

We queer people will do everything to ensure our liberty, even if it takes some Bollywoodising

It's time to stand up, dance, and be counted.

It is March 2012, and the Indian Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Koushal v Naz, the case that will decide whether millions of Indian adults should be condemned to criminality for having sex with other adults to whom they are attracted or whom they love. An almost-Bollywood moment occurs in court (but eventually only in my head).

I am sitting in the fourth row on the extreme left of the courtroom. Arguments for striking down this criminalisation prescribed by Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code are being presented. The court interrupts the arguing lawyer and makes an observation: that it is unaware of anyone who is homosexual, apart from some historical figures who have been mentioned and an esteemed Australian judge. This despite several eloquent testimonies of queer people being placed before the court of how criminalisation gravely affects their lives.

The court’s decision, issued a whole 22 months later reveals this line of thought to be thus: We don’t know homosexual people, and if they do exist they are few and far between; given their tiny presence their concerns don’t merit the time of the apex constitutional court of India; let them meet their fate elsewhere i.e. Parliament. In this most tragic, and inequitable of judgments the Indian Supreme Court deemed homosexuals unworthy of its assistance, being that they were merely a “minuscule fraction”.

But back to the almost-Bollywood moment: When this bewildering line of pondering is being articulated I look around the room, and am about to tap the shoulder of a queer lawyer sitting in front of me – visualising that filmi instant when the few dozen of us queers in the courtroom (many of us in our lawyers gowns) stand up one by one, to show that here we are, always ready to be counted.

The perils of reality

I’ve asked myself why I hesitated that day. I did so because this was real life, not some fantastical Bollywood movie; this was the gravitas of my nation’s court, an institution I greatly respected, not some film set where all kinds of flourishes are scripted; and, because this was about me and my miniscule fraction leading full and free lives – the moments in court were delicate, vital, precious. What could be perceived as grandstanding may only make things worse. So: button up and keep sitting, Vivek! Of course, little did I know that in December 2013 my minuscule fraction and I would be condemned to the straitjacket of criminalisation all over again.

Now, let’s be clear about a couple of things related to “minuscule fractions”. First, and less important – how minuscule a fraction are we homos? Conservative estimates would place us at 2% of any population. In India that’s a delightful 2.5 crores who are potentially criminal for indulging in sexual intercourse with other adults of the same sex, as per the perverse Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. And, that’s not counting the many crores of heterosexual people who enjoy non-procreative sex, thereby being covered by the same ridiculous law. Yet, even if we only count the homos among us, it will include a colourful cross-section of society – from captains of industry, actors, rickshaw drivers and film producers to doctors, tailors, carpenters, and agriculturists; from homemakers, journalists and athletes to lawmakers, judges, plumbers and domestic workers.

Second, some foundational civics: in a plural democracy how does it make a difference whether one is a minuscule (or large) fraction? Unless India is a tyranny, are not all her people assured of fundamental rights? And, although a democracy works through political will exercised through majority rule, is that a democracy’s sole trait? Nations that profess democracy through the fig leaf of free elections and majority will are tyrannies by another name. A real democracy is one that forestalls tyranny by wedding majority rule with the assurance of fundamental rights for all, including for all fractions, miniscule or not. These rights can only be restricted if their exercise causes harm to others. That’s the plainspeak of the Indian Constitution.

False claims

Also, about causing harm: no matter what spurious sadhus might say or uninformed mischief-makers might claim – of “curing” homosexuality through yoga, or the rampant child sex abuse that will engulf India or the family structures that will collapse – there is absolutely no evidence that the decriminalisation of homosexual sex between consenting adults will have any ill-effects on society. It hasn’t done so wherever such law reform has taken place, and in the four years between 2009 and 2013 that it was decriminalised in India it only brought great relief, freedom and a sense of personhood to millions of individuals and families. Other than loss of izzat, I don’t know of any harm that adults involved in homosexual sex can possibly cause to other persons, families, communities or society. And, if loss of izzat is reason enough then maybe we should criminalise almost all human behaviour.

On the other hand, I do know of the great harm that 377 has caused in many people’s lives. The media has covered stories of suicide by and abuse, extortion and violence against queer people over the years. But this is the tip of the iceberg, and these tragedies have seen an upswing since the pitiful decision in Koushal. On the first anniversary of the judgment, at a meeting held in Delhi to present firsthand accounts of this hate and sadness, the testimonies were heart-rending – of families shunning members, parents threatening children, public violence and police abuse and extortion. The words “beaten”, “assaulted”, “raped”, “banished” were constantly uttered.

Running scared

When MPs who bore witness to these moving accounts were asked to walk the talk of support that they had professed, the response was stock – that Indian society needed to be ready before law reform could be contemplated. That is humbug. First, sometimes it is law reform that precipitates social change. And, second, there is nothing to suggest that Indian society is not ready for the removal of 377. You ask people if their son, daughter, brother or sister, friend or colleague should be jailed for acting on their homosexual attractions, and I’m convinced you’ll get a resounding “no”.

When the curative petition comes before the Supreme Court on February 2, it is time for the honourable judges to imagine themselves in their roles as fathers, mothers, siblings, colleagues or friends, and ponder this question with all seriousness. Passing the buck to Parliament is not only an abdication of constitutional responsibility, but also unviable – we’ve just witnessed the phobia with which Shashi Tharoor’s bill to revoke 377 was summarily and insolently thrown out by the Lok Sabha.

Years ago, I’d written with confidence that with truth on our side, we queers will prevail. I am still convinced that chicanery and small-mindedness will only be stumbling blocks on that journey. This is written to once again stake a claim to be a full person in this land. It is also to signal on behalf of queer people that we will not back down in using all the constitutional tools available to us to be liberated. And, in that process, we will continue to stand up and be counted, creating Bollywood moments in courtrooms and anywhere the occasion calls for.

Vivek Divan is qualified in the law and queerness.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Han Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.

Play

To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.