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Diplomacy can be fraught at the best of times. Serious, high-level events are regularly punctuated with physical gaffes, miscues, awkward handshakes, strained laughter, and cultural misunderstandings of varying scope and severity.
Like the time President Donald Trump appeared to shove the prime minister of Montenegro at a NATO summit. Or when President Barack Obama got caught on a hot mic complaining to then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy about the prime minister of Israel, a key U.S. ally. Or when Russia’s foreign minister awkwardly explained to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on live TV, that the “reset” button she handed him actually read, in Russian, “overcharge.”
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Or, perhaps most spectacularly — even more so than his performance later that year when he vomited on Japan’s prime minister — the time President George H.W. Bush visited U.S. ally Australia and flashed the crowd what he may have thought was a sign for victory or peace.
That two-fingered salute does not mean either of those things in Australia.
At the worst of times — like in the middle of a pandemic, when leaders can’t meet in person to hash out important issues — diplomacy can be excruciating. Like the agonizingly long pause during a recent virtual U.S.-led climate summit, when the French president was cut off mid-speech and the screen cut to a silent Russian president as leaders shifted in their chairs and waited for someone to speak.
By now, millions of people around the world have suffered through the awkwardness of virtual meetings and their many technical hazards. Like video glitches, missed cues, hot mics, and — oops — when you accidentally use that one Zoom filter that turns your face into a cat.
But in meetings of global importance, going virtual raises serious concerns.
Before the coronavirus pandemic began, major summits were a hub of human activity, commonly drawing civil society groups and protesters into the same space as major decision-makers.
Now, with everything online, more people can watch the proceedings. And whereas activists may not have been able to travel to major summits because of cost and visa restrictions, now anyone can log on and tune in.
But, says Mandeep Tiwana of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, the closed nature of virtual summits — in which moderators limit who can speak — means fewer ordinary people and outsiders can actually participate and enjoy the freedom of assembly and expression.
“Online, these rights should be as equally available as they are offline,” he told VOA from New York via Google Hangouts. “That’s critical. Secondly, we are also urging that when meetings are being organized by intergovernmental institutions and multilateral bodies, and so on, that they try to reach a vast swath of people.
“But most importantly,” he said, “I think the internet should be recognized as a very important human right.”
Virtual diplomacy is likely here to stay, even after the pandemic, says Brooks Spector, a former American diplomat-turned-journalist who has lived in South Africa for decades. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went fully virtual for his first Africa trip this week, spending a day going electronically between high-level meetings in Kenya and Nigeria.
Blinken adapted quickly to the screen, Spector said. “The extent to which Tony Blinken shows the same kind of ability and warmth through the camera that the president can … [will] stand him in good stead,” he said. “Because this, I suspect, is going to be the way of the world for quite a while.
“There’ll be a lot fewer international visits and a whole lot more international consultations by way of the electronics.”
But, Spector warns, don’t conflate the novel format with fresh, new, or even honest, content. One thing remains essential to diplomacy, no matter the medium: preparation. These engagements are just as rehearsed as they ever were, he says, because they have to be.
“Virtual diplomacy, it’s like anything else,” he said. “It’s only as good as the staff work that precedes it. If it’s entirely an open-ended discussion in which a dozen or more people are participating, the result is something approaching chaos.”
Or whatever that was last week, when the world watched global leaders sit helplessly for 88 agonizing seconds as President Vladimir Putin stared blankly into the middle distance, fidgeting and gesturing mutely off-camera as Blinken mutters under his breath about technical problems.
It could have been worse: So far, the Zoom cat face filter has yet to make its diplomatic debut. (VOA/KB)
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.
The Mysore kingdom became a popular tourist destination after India became an independent country. The Wodeyar dynasty who succeeded Tipu Sultan are still royalty, but they do not rule the state. Their heritage and culture have become what Karnataka is famous for.
Among the many things that Mysore offers to the state of Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is one. In north India, various cultures have their own headgears. They wear their traditional outfits on the days of festivities and ceremonies. Likewise, in the south, especially in Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is worn.
Made of the traditional Mysore silk, the Peta is usually a white turban decorated with a gold silk thread. It is worn by the Maharaja of Mysore during Dasara, or any other public appearance. This tradition has been preserved and is used all over the state by prominent leaders.
Politicians who want to appease older, more experienced politicians, offer a peta as a sign of honour. International guests are welcomed into the city with a peta and silk shawl. In universities, the peta is worn as a replacement to the black caps, as a sign of graduation and scholarship.
Even today, in the court of Mysore, petas are worn and given out as tokens of honour. The peta of the king varies from the ones a courtier wears, and even among them, there is a difference according to status. Petas are made by a particular family and passed down from generation to generation.
Keywords: Mysore kingdom, peta, silk, Wodeyar
Renowned feminist activist, author, and a face of the women's rights movement in India, Kamla Bhasin, passed away today morning at the age of 74.
The news of the same was shared by activist Kavita Srivastava on Twitter. The tweet said, "Kamla Bhasin, our dear friend, passed away around 3am today 25th Sept. This is a big setback for the women's movement in India and the South Asian region. She celebrated life whatever the adversity. Kamla you will always live in our hearts. In Sisterhood, which is in deep grief."
Bhasin, since the 1970s, has been an advocate of women's movement not just in India but other South Asian countries as well. In fact, in 2002, she founded a feminist network named as 'Sangat', which only motive was to work with underprivileged women from rural and tribal communities, often by using non-literary tools like plays, songs, and art.
Having a Master's degree in literature, Bhasin has written many books on gender theory and feminism, and interestingly, many of them have been translated into more than 30 languages. Another quick fact revolving around Bhasin is that the chant of 'Azadi', which is often heard at protests and rallies, was first popularised by her as feminist slogan against patriarchy.
Bhasin was awarded with the "Laadli Life Time Achievement Award" in the year 2017 for her commendable work.
Keywords: Kamla Bhasin, Feminism, India, Patriarchy, Literature, Feminist, Women, Rights