Love and marriage

Married couples only: Conservative India’s moral policing extends to Airbnb

Some hosts whose properties are listed on the popular app refuse two people of the opposite sex unless they are married or related.

A number of Airbnb listings in India use a version of this caveat: married couples only.

In essence, the hosts do not accommodate couples of the opposite sex unless they are married or are siblings or close relatives (often requiring documentary evidence). The refusal is usually based on cultural sensitivities or stems from the fear of harassment by the cops or the moral police, a peculiar south Asian vigilantism against anything deemed immoral.

For instance, businessman S Nisar, who rents out a property in Chennai, fears getting unwittingly involved in illicit activities. “Actually, if we allow unmarried couples, there is a risk that we, at our place, are allowing prostitution,” Nisar told Quartz over Airbnb’s messaging portal. A manager at Mumbai’s Hotel Flora Fountain cited “harassment by local authorities and police” as the reason for not taking bookings from unmarried couples on Airbnb. Earlier this month, Buzzfeed found a “married only” policy on dozens of listings.

The Hotel Association of India, an umbrella organisation overseeing nearly 300 hotels across the country, says that no law bars unmarried couples from sharing a room. In fact, the Supreme Court of India made it explicit that heterosexual relations among consenting adults was not an offence if it was not adulterous. But there’s no stopping the cops who regularly raid hotels, bars, and nightclubs – often based on mere rumours and baseless complaints – to harass unmarried couples.

A Quora user from Hyderabad wrote that she and her boyfriend were dragged out of their hotel room and tormented by the police; they ended up paying Rs 5,000 as bribe to be let off the hook. Two years ago, the Mumbai police raided a series of suburban hotels and accused over 40 couples of “public indecency” and subjected them to a fine of Rs 1,200 each.

So, hotels and hosts remain cautious. Even online aggregators like Cleartrip and MakeMyTrip specify that hotels reserve the right to deny entry to unmarried couples.

Airbnb has a non-discrimination policy as per which hosts can’t refuse guests based on their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or other reasons. However, these guidelines are strictly followed only in the US and the European Union, Airbnb notes. The San Francisco-based room-booking portal recognises that “some countries or communities may allow or even require people to make accommodation distinctions based on, for example, marital status, national origin, gender or sexual orientation.”

While the portal accommodates the hosts’ concerns, it makes sure they are reasonable. “In some very rare cases, hosts may have reasonable concerns, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, the host removes this restriction or we remove the host from our community,” an Airbnb spokesperson told Quartz. If hosting an unmarried couple could subject the host or guest to the risk of arrest or physical harm, they may not be allowed, the San Francisco-headquartered firm said.

To play safe, some hosts seek government-issued IDs from guests. But not everyone wants to work his or her way around. Blame cultural conservatism for that.

Closed minds

At Thelma Kariappa’s estate in Kodagu in southern India’s Karnataka, house rules regarding unmarried couples are not up for debate. They help “avoid local ‘unmarried’ couples misusing our accommodation or mistaking it for ‘love hotels’ that can be found in some parts of the world,” Kariappa said. “This is a small town of India,” she told Quartz, referring to Kodagu’s Madikeri hill station where her estate is located.

Badrinath S, another Puducherry host listed on Airbnb, said, “Our traditions do not encourage unmarried couples.” He even asked if it was “ethical” to do so.

Vigilantes often roam the streets of Indian cities and towns, targeting even young boys and girls found together in public places. For instance, Valentine’s Day is a guaranteed red rag for such thuggery – actions range from stern warnings to spot weddings to ruthless thrashings.

Given such circumstances, finding rooms is a far cry. Yet, some doors have been opening in recent times.

A few startups have begun offering guaranteed privacy and safety for the unmarried.

For instance StayUncle, headquartered in New Delhi, helps such couples rent hotel rooms for between eight and 10 hours. (The company’s first angel investment of a “couple of lakhs” came from Ajay Naqvi, AirBnB’s country marketing manager till August 2016.) Gurgaon-based hotel aggregator OYO Rooms has also launched a “relationship mode” that only lists hotels that welcome unmarried couples.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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, Hans 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.