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THE WIRE
The Wire is a news website available in English and Hindi, was founded in 2015 in New Delhi. It is published by the Foundation for Independent Journalism (FIJ), a non-profit Indian company.
Image of a group of five people sitting on the grass inside of the Indian Institute of Technology campus.
Society
M.M Ansari and Mohammad Naushad Khan

India Higher Education Inferior Complex: Where Are The Foreign University Campuses?

The proposed UGC guidelines are ill-conceived and populist, and hardly take note of the educational and financial interests of foreign universities.

NEW DELHI — Nearly 800,000 young people from India attend foreign universities every year in search of quality education and entrepreneurial training, resulting in a massive outflow of resources – $3 billion – to finance their education. These students look for greener pastures abroad because of the lack of quality teaching and research in most of India’s higher education institutions.

Over 40,000 colleges and 1,000 universities are producing unemployable graduates who cannot function in a knowledge- and technology-intensive economy.

The Indian government's solution is to open doors to foreign universities, with a proposed set of regulations aiming to provide higher education and research services to match global standards, and to control the outflow of resources. But this decision raises many questions.

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Photo of someone holding a phone
LGBTQ Plus
Laura Valentina Cortés, Inès Mermat, Renate Mattar and Hugo Perrin

LGBTQ+ International: Lithuanian Fairy Tales, Egypt Dating App Gangs — And Other News

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on a topic you may follow closely at home, but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Discover the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

This week featuring:

  • Top athletes coming out
  • Scotland’s trans violence
  • EU defends inclusive fairytales
  • … and more

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

TW: This content may address topics and include references to violence that some may find distressing.

🇪🇬 In Egypt, Gangs and Police Target LGBTQ+ People Using Dating Apps

The new BBC investigative documentary Queer Egypt Under Attackhas revealed how criminal gangs and Egyptian police officers are using dating apps to target the LGBTQ+ community.

In a two-year-long investigation, journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin uncovered the tactics used to lure, and eventually prosecute, LGBTQ+ people in Egypt, where no explicit law against homosexuality exists, but where queer people are more and more at risk of abuse and extortion.

Gangs meet their potential victims on dating apps, where they pretend to be regular people looking for a date, then rob, beat, and extort their victims for money, usually filming these acts and using them to humiliate the victims. The videos often end up online and get millions of views, or they are directly sent to the victims’ families and friends. The police are using the same methods.

While there is no explicit law against homosexuality in Egypt, the crime of debauchery, which is originally a sex work charge, is commonly used to prosecute the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the witnesses interviewed by Shihab-Eldin also declared that they were promised freedom if they in turn became informants and named some of their peers that had the same “perversions”.

🏈 Change Afoot? Top Athletes Come Out In Basketball, Rugby, Tennis

Photo of Daria Kasatkina of Russia at the 2023 Australian Open Grand Slam

Daria Kasatkina of Russia during the second round of the 2023 Australian Open Grand Slam

Rob Prange/AFP7/Zuma

A number of high-profile athletes came out this week, such as former pro Australian basketball player Trevor Torrance. Torrance said that he never considered coming out during his career, which coincided with the peak of the AIDS epidemic. “I suffered from anxiety,” he says. “I know I had moments of bouts of depression.”

Russian Tennis Champion Daria Kasatkina also says that being able to come out was a relief to her. “Living in the closet is impossible. It is too hard, it is pointless,” she stated. Kasatkina has also been a vocal critic of the Kremlin and Russia’s war against Ukraine. She officially came out as queer this past summer, but shared in an interview with the Guardian this week that coming out “helped her” and that she is “happy with the outcome.”

Former New Zealand prop Campbell Johnstone has also come out as the first gay All Black. Johnstone said that he has been “leading a double life” and “living a lie” when he came out on television this Wednesday. His coming out has been praised and regarded as “pretty courageous”, especially by All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea: “He probably doesn’t realize how many people he’s helped internally with what he’s done, so big ups to him.”

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Report Shows Explosion Of Trans Hate Crimes In Scotland In Past 10 Years

Hate crimes committed against trans people in Scotland are rising faster than any other type of hate crime, according to new government statistics published recently, with a 68% increase from 2020–2021 to 2021–2022. Hate crimes targeting the sexual orientation of minorities almost doubled since 2014.

At the center of debates is the Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), which allows trans people to be recognized properly on many legal certificates. In the UK, trans people must submit a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before they can obtain one.

In December 2022, Scotland passed legislation that would have removed it to make the process simpler and more accessible. In January, the UK government blocked the reform for women and children protection.

🇮🇳 Delhi Lawyer Denied Judge Position Because Of “Attachment To Gay Rights”

The Union government has denied Saurabh Kirpal, a New Delhi Lawyer, the position of Delhi High Court judge because of his sexual orientation and “passionate attachment to the cause of gay rights,” which the government claimed could prejudice his rulings.

Kirpal, whose appointment as high court judge has been pending for the past five years, is appalled by the matter and claims that the bench is composed of upper caste, heterosexual men – all of whom are biased, which is not a reflection of the society he lives in.

🇱🇹 EU Says “No” To Warning Label On Lithuanian LGBTQ+-Inclusive Fairy Tales

Photo of the cover of a children's book containing LGBTQ+ inclusive fairy tales

Cover of a children's book containing LGBTQ+ inclusive fairy tales

Les livres interdits

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that imposing a warning label on a children’s book because it contains LGBTQ+ inclusive fairy tales is unjustifiable and violates the right to freedom of expression.

In 2013, the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences published late lesbian writer Neringa Macaté’s book Gintarinė širdis (“Amber Heart”), containing six fairy tales, two of which had storylines about relationships and marriages between persons of the same sex. After it was published, complaints were submitted and the Lithuanian courts agreed that the book could cause harm to children because of the LGBTQ+ inclusive fairy tales

The Inspectorate of Journalistic Ethics concluded that the book has a negative effect on minors and therefore recommended that the book be labeled with a warning that it might be harmful to children under 14 years of age. But in 2019, the author, who passed away in 2020, took the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that imposing a warning label on a children’s book because it contains LGBTQ inclusive fairy tales is unjustifiable and violates the right to freedom of expression. The court also ordered Lithuania to pay €17,000 to the author’s mother to cover damages and litigation costs.

🇲🇽 Mexico Police Arbitrarily LGBTQ+ People On Grounds Of “Lack Of Morality And/Or Good Manners

In the State of Mexico, phrases such as "lack of morality" are used by the police to harass, extort and arbitrarily detains LGBTQ+ people in public spaces. The findings are shown in an analysis of the 125 municipal governments of the State.

Ricardo Torres, president of Fuera del Clóset A.C. explained “we have been documenting arbitrary arrests, extortion, and harassment by public servants, especially municipal police, for 10 years… And this is something that not only occurs in the State of Mexico, but throughout the country, which uses the figure of ‘lack of morality’ or ‘exhibitionism’ as the perfect excuse for the detention of LGBT+ people."

🇫🇷 France Mourns Bullied Gay Teenage Teenager Who Committed Suicide

Lucas, a 13-year-old gay boy committed suicide on Jan. 7 in Vosges, France. According to his mother, during a press conference last Monday, he was the victim of harassment in the form of teasing and insults due to his homosexuality. A march in memory of Lucas will be held Sunday, Feb. 5.

On Friday, Jan. 27, public prosecutor Frédéric Nahon announced that four students will be tried in the spring for harassing and pushing Lucas to suicide, He also announced the opening of an “incidental investigation against X for non-disclosure of ill-treatment of minors”. During Monday's press conference, broadcast live by the news channels, Lucas' mother said: "It's not just these four young people, it's not just them [...] But it will be the court that will decide. I just want my son to rest in peace and for justice to be done.”

The news has shaken the country with many institutions being scrutinized. One wrote to the French President: “Mr. Macron, stop saying that primary school is "far too early" to deal with questions of sexual orientation and gender identity.“

🇺🇬 Ugandan LGBTQ+ Rights Activist Margaret Sekaggya Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Photo of \u200bU.S. Mission Alumni Impact Awards Ceremony

U.S. Mission Alumni Impact Awards Ceremony

U.S. Embassy Kampala

The U.S. Mission in Uganda has given activist Margaret Sekaggya the Dorothy Ngalombi Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding service and achievements as a human rights defender during the U.S. Mission Alumni Impact Awards Ceremony.

Before she founded the Human Rights and Peace Center, of which she is currently the executive director, Sekaggya served as the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), which she also helped establish. Sekaggya was also the first United Nations special rapporteur for human rights defenders.

Sekaggya is also known for having successfully opposed the 2010 Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda that would have imposed on an offender imprisonment of at least five years, and in the case of a non-governmental organization, the canceling of its certificate of registration and criminal liability for its director.

🇬🇧 London’s Trans Inclusive “Vagina Museum” Gets Eviction Notice – Again

The world’s only vagina museum dedicated to “vaginas, vulvas and the gynecological anatomy” currently located in London, UK, has been yet again asked to vacate the premises, less than a year after it moved into its Bethnal Green site.

The museum’s aim since it opened in Camden Market in 2019 has been to promote queer and trans-inclusive education about anatomy, which has subjected the venue to severe transphobia. After welcoming 40,000 visitors free of charge during the past ten months, the Vagina Museum will be closed to the public from Feb. 1 so it can vacate the premises.

🇺🇸 Utah Bans Gender-Affirming Medical Care

The Republican-dominated state of Utah has become the first U.S. state to ban gender-affirming care for young trans people. The new measure, passed into law on Jan. 28, will include gender surgery, puberty blockers, and hormone therapy for minors that had not been yet diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Utah Governor Spencer Corx affirms that this ban was brought on by a desire for “more and better research” to understand the “consequences” of gender-affirming healthcare. But Brittney Nystrom, executive director of the ACLU of Utah, affirms that this bill “bans access to life-saving medical care for transgender youth in Utah”. Another 18 other states are currently considering similar legislation.

🇳🇱 Dutch Constitution Changed To Ban Sexual Orientation-Based Discrimination

The Dutch parliament has approved an amendment in the constitution to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and disability. This new amendment, which still requires King William Alexander’s signature and the government’s final approval to be officially inscribed in the constitution, comes as a historic victory for LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities in the Netherlands.

“A disability, or who you fall in love with, should never be a reason to be excluded,” said Habtamu de Hoop, member of the PvdA, a left-wing opposition party in the country.

🇺🇸 Trans Model Laith Ashley Stars As Taylor Swift’s Love Interest In New Music Video

Trans model and actor Laith Ashley is Taylor Swift’s love interest in her new music video. Laith Ashely co-stars as the singer’s love interest in the new music video for “Lavender Haze,” the second single from her 2022 album Midnights. Ashley has previously appeared in campaigns for Barney’s and Diesel, walked the runway for Marco Marco, and was the first out trans member of the “pit crew” on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Swift’s choice of casting for a video she wrote and directed herself has been defined as “a big moment for representation” by Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s director of trans representation Alex Schmider.

OTHERWISE

• “Queer,” you say? MambaOnline unpacks the history of the word itself.

• If you’re familiar with the works of UK non-binary poet Kae Tempest, you know any interview with them is bound to be interesting.

• Openly looks back on the death of Kenyan LGBTQ+ activist and the inclusion-led movement it sparked for new generation of Africans.

• “Witchcraft is rooted in healing, rebellion, and rituals: all things that are intertwined with LGBTQ+ culture,” writes Nicole Lee in GCN.

• Disappointed by the Academy Awards nominees? Here are 10 Must-Watch LGBTQ+ Films That the Oscars Overlooked.

Photo of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Geopolitics
Anita Inder Singh*

Modi Is Wrong: Russia's War Also Creates Real Risks For India

By shrugging aside Russia’s aggression, India has shown indifference to fears that China could follow Russia’s example.

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — India is wrong to dismiss Russia’s war in Ukraine as Europe’s problem. The illegality and destructiveness of the invasion, and consequential food and energy crises, have global ramifications.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

This explains why 143 out of the 193 member-states of the UN General Assembly voted against recognizing Russia’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions after holding sham referenda there. Ninety-three voted in favor of expelling Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

India has abstained from every vote in the UN condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The reason? Moscow is India’s top arms supplier and some 70% of India’s military platforms are of Russian origin.

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Photo of a woman holding a remote while watching Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on TV
Ideas
The Wire Editorial

Modi's Fight Against "Fake News" Looks A Whole Lot Like Censorship

The Modi government’s attempts to censor the media and intimidate independent journalism pose a grave danger to Indian democracy.

A distinct chill has set in this January.

The first month of the New Year has spelt trouble for anybody interested in India’s future as a democracy – where freedom of expression ought to be guaranteed. Not to speak of our newly minted status as the "mother of democracy."

There are things happening, which must be seen together to understand the reality: Censorship is here.

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Photo of people standing next to a cracked road in Joshimath, India
Ideas
Rohan Banerjee*

Joshimath, The Sinking Indian City Has Also Become A Hotbed Of Government Censorship

The Indian authorities' decision to hide factual reports on the land subsidence in Joshimath only furthers a sense of paranoia.

MUMBAI — Midway through the movie Don’t Look Up (2021), the outspoken PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is bundled into a car, a bag over her head. The White House, we are told, wants her “off the grid”. She is taken to a warehouse – the sort of place where CIA and FBI agents seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Hollywood movies – and charged with violating national security secrets.

The Hobson’s choice offered to her is to either face prosecution or suspend “all public media appearances and incendiary language relating to Comet Dibiasky”, an interstellar object on a collision course with earth. Exasperated, she acquiesces to the gag order.

Don’t Look Upis a satirical take on the collective apathy towards climate change; only, the slow burn of fossil fuel is replaced by the more imminent threat of a comet crashing into our planet. As a couple of scientists try to warn humanity about its potential extinction, they discover a media, an administration, and indeed, a society that is not just unwilling to face the truth but would even deny it.

This premise and the caricatured characters border on the farcical, with plot devices designed to produce absurd scenarios that would be inconceivable in the real world we inhabit. After all, would any government dealing with a natural disaster, issue an edict prohibiting researchers and scientists from talking about the event? Surely not. Right?

On January 11, the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), one of the centers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), issued a preliminary report on the land subsidence issue occurring in Joshimath, the mountainside city in the Himalayas.

The word ‘subsidence’ entered the public lexicon at the turn of the year as disturbing images of cracked roads and tilted buildings began to emanate from Joshimath.

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photo of women wearing hijabs during the Muharram procession in Srinagar, India
Society
Seemi Pasha

The Everyday Weight Of Wearing A Hijab In India

Several Muslim women who wear hijabs share their stories to highlight the discrimination, from disapproving looks to outright insults, they face everyday in India in both their personal and professional lives.

On September 20, 2022, the government of Karnataka told the Supreme Court that Muslims girls in Udupi were goaded into wearing a hijab to school by the Islamic Popular Front of India (PFI) through social media messages. The state government made the argument while responding to a petition challenging the ban on wearing a hijab to school imposed by Karnataka, and upheld by the state high court. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the apex court that wearing a hijab was part of a "larger conspiracy" orchestrated by the PFI to create social unrest.

On October 13 this year, the Supreme Court of India delivered a split verdict on pleas challenging the Karnataka high court order that had upheld the ban. A constitutional bench comprising the Chief Justice of India will now examine whether Muslim girls can or cannot wear a head scarf in school.

As of December 1 this year, there were 69,598 cases pending before the Supreme Court. The backlog includes petitions challenging the Modi government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and pleas challenging the government’s decision to dilute Article 370 of the Constitution. These have been pending for more than two years. Despite the urgency of matters that have been placed on the back burner, the apex court is being forced to spend its time deciding whether schoolgoing Muslim girls can get an education while wearing a head scarf, a tradition some Muslims believe is integral their faith.

The ban on wearing a hijab in classrooms may have highlighted the Karnataka government’s intolerance towards minorities, but the bias against the head scarf, it seems, is an old one.

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Deadly Virus Shakes Indian Village's Faith In Traditional Healers
Society
Jehangir Ali

Deadly Virus Shakes Indian Village's Faith In Traditional Healers

An outbreak of Hepatitis-A led to the deaths of two children in an isolated village in Kashmir. Some point fingers at the lack of surveillance by trained doctors and poor sanitation, and others, to the faith villagers place in traditional healers.

TURKA TACHLOO Eight-year-old Afaan Altaf first lost his appetite. Then the child’s face and eyes started to pale. Within two days, he began to vomit.

The Altafs live in Turka Tachloo, a village of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district and were worried about Afaan. In early December, Afaan’s father Mohammad Altaf, a farmer, decided to visit the Maternity and Child Care hospital in the nearby town of Anantnag.

Official records show that Afaan had tested positive for Hepatitis-A on December 3 following an outbreak of the viral infection in Turka Tachloo. The village, located 54 kilometres from Srinagar, the largest city of Jammu and Kashmir, comprises about 240 households, most of which are poor and depend on agriculture.

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photo of 2 nurses in india walking past graffiti that says "democracy'
Economy
Vibhav Mariwala

Post-Pandemic Reflections On The Accumulation Of State Power

The public sector has seen a revival in response to COVID-19. This can be a good thing, but must be checked carefully because history tells us of the risks of too much control in the government's hands.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — The COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of a period of heightened global tensions, social and economic upheaval and of a sustained increase in state intervention in the economy. Consequently, the state has acquired significant powers in managing people’s personal lives, starting from lockdowns and quarantine measures, to providing stimulus and furlough schemes, and now, the regulation of energy consumption.

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