There’s a unique opportunity for the five-judge bench that will start hearing arguments on same-sex marriage from April 18. What it will decide will send a signal to India and the world
What is the havoc that solicitor-general Tushar Mehta fears? If personal religious laws don’t recognize same-sex marriage, then there’s the Secular Special Marriage Act of 1954 that allows interfaith couples to marry. A government that talks of a common civil code can easily extend this common law to sexual minorities. It’s hard to imagine that Armageddon will be unleashed by extending marriage rights. (HT PHOTO)
The lines for the battle for marriage equality have been drawn. The central government through its affidavit is clear: Granting legal recognition to marriage within the LGBTQ community will cause “havoc” with the balance of the country’s personal laws, societal values, and legislative policy that recognizes marriage as a bond only between biological men and biological women. For the 15 petitioners, who await a verdict, the issue is simple. The Constitution guarantees equality to all. In 2018, when Section 377 criminalizing sex “against the order of nature” was scrapped, the logical end was marriage rights. These are rights based on common sense. In addition to social validation, marriage confers substantial rights on married couples, from taxation and adoption to inheritance, that are denied at present to same-sex couples.
He leadership of a new generation of Dalit women–articulate, clear about strategy, and utterly fearless despite death threats and opposition from groups including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu American Foundation
When Indians migrate, they can carry the prejudice of caste with them. The first comprehensive UN report on caste-based discrimination found at least 250 million people worldwide face dehumanizing discrimination, with women and girls vulnerable to sexual violence. (Shutterstock)
It’s hard to say when this story begins. Perhaps it’s 2015 when Dalit activist and author, The Trauma of Caste Thenmozhi Soundararajan co-founded Equality Labs with the goal of ending caste apartheid.
Perhaps it goes back to when a 10-year-old, United States-born Soundararajan asked her mother, immigrants to America in the 1970s, about her caste, learned she was an “untouchable”, shared this fact with a friend when she had gone over to play and was then served a snack on a paper plate.
Or perhaps it starts in 2020 when the state of California filed a lawsuit against Cisco for caste discrimination against a Dalit employee. Since that lawsuit, 250 Dalits from tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have reported caste-based discrimination.
Regardless of where this story begins, it leads to February 21, 2023, the day Seattle legally banned caste discrimination.
India’s Constitution guarantees equal status to all citizens. We have a slew of laws, including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, yet everyday caste-based violence is routine, rarely making headlines except in the most egregious cases, such as the death of Rohith Vemula and the rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras that has, unsurprisingly, resulted in the acquittal of the four men charged by the CBI for the crime (the fourth was found guilty under the SC/ST act and for culpable homicide, not rape.)
Caste apartheid stains higher education, chief justice DY Chandrachud recently noted. Referring to the death by suicide on February 12 of 18-year-old Darshan Solanki, a Dalit student at IIT, Bombay, he said these “are not just statistics. They are stories sometimes of centuries of struggle.”
When Indians migrate, they can carry the prejudice of caste with them. The first comprehensive UN report on caste-based discrimination found at least 250 million people worldwide face dehumanizing discrimination, with women and girls vulnerable to sexual violence.
A 2018 Equality Labs survey documented caste discrimination in the US for the first time to find one in four Dalits had faced verbal or physical assault.
I have been listening to heartbreaking conversations where Dalit students speak about being “outed” when their entrance test marks are revealed, ergo students on reservation quotas, ergo ostracisation on campus.
The Seattle ordinance is remarkable for three reasons. First, it recognizes generational trauma and marks a significant step in ending it. “Today Seattle, tomorrow the nation,” Soundararajan told me on the phone.
Starting with Brandeis University in 2019, a growing number of universities, including the California state universities with 23 colleges, prohibit caste discrimination.
Second is its strategy in building a coalition of over 140 groups of oppressed people, including Dalits, Blacks, indigenous people, workers, and even dominant-caste Hindus, including Seattle councilwoman Kshama Sawant who led the vote.
But it’s the third which is more remarkable for me: The leadership of a new generation of Dalit women–articulate, clear about strategy, and utterly fearless despite death threats and opposition from groups including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu American Foundation.
These include the 30 Dalit women engineers who, following the Cisco lawsuit, spoke up against the “casteist networks of Silicon Valley Tech” despite the risk of losing jobs and immigration status.
They include the Dalit feminists who broke the silence around caste violence by marching in 16 cities in 2015. This awareness-building eventually led to the first Congressional briefing on caste in 2019, co-hosted by Equality Labs, the Ambedkar Association of North America, and Api Chaya, which supports violence survivors.
The goal is healing and reconciliation, Soundararajan said. “People are sick of the pain. We are building a movement to free all oppressed people with love, empathy and care.”
when old age still seems a long way off. It’s not like turning 70, where the clock ticking to where we’re all headed must only get louder. It’s that muddled place of no longer middle age, but not quite old age
Turning 60 is not like turning 50At 60, you know you’ve lived longer than the years left in the tank. So much still to do in the time when you can do it. That road trip. Dance classes. A marathon — well, maybe, an easy hike. Sinking the patriarchy. (Shutterstock)
The year I was born, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space; John F Kennedy made his famous Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner) speech, and India’s Department of Post and Telegraph launched a national telex service.