Our cities must accept differences and become tolerant
Until we learn to accept differences in culture, food habits, sexual orientations, and ways of life, we will never truly become an egalitarian society.Updated: Jul 12, 2019 17:16 IST
The difficulties of finding a house in a city are probably as old as cities themselves. But there is a problem in finding a home in Indian cities which goes beyond the issue of finding a nice enough space that fits a specific budget. There raises its head the insidious issue of discrimination. As single people (both men and women) and members of marginalised communities (Muslims, LGBTQ folk, people from the Northeast) will attest, the problem is one of tolerance…and by-laws. Some Co-operative Housing Societies in Mumbai have been known to check food delivery boxes to screen for non-vegetarian items; Delhi landlords have been known to refuse homes to unmarried couples; single folk have been refused houses in every city for the fear of prostitution (if you are a single man, you will be suspected of bringing in sex workers; if you are a single woman, you will be suspected of being one). Given how ‘intolerance’ has become a key theme in our public discourse, solving this problem could help solve many others.
In her 2017 report on adequate housing, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, has pointed out how Muslims, Dalits, and women (‘especially widows, single women, women from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and elderly women’) face multiple layers of discrimination when it comes to access and control of housing. The report details how private landlords, real estate brokers, and property dealers often refuse to rent to minorities and women, and landlords routinely impose ‘unfair conditions’ on them. A 2016 study by the Helsinki-based United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) also echoes these findings. Having found “strong evidence of discrimination against Muslim applicants”, the paper contends that “a Muslim applicant must respond to 45.5 listings to receive 10 landlord call backs, while a Hindu upper caste applicant must respond to only 28.6 listings to receive the same number.”
Even though it has been established that it is far from legal to police things such as what food one may eat within the sanctuary of one’s home, home owners and residents associations continue to discriminate on such and other flimsy grounds. For a society as diverse and varied as India, such discrimination must cease. For intolerance to be removed from society, the goal that society must work towards must be acceptance. Until we learn to accept differences in culture, food habits, sexual orientations, and ways of life, we will never truly be able to be an egalitarian society.