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Homophobia & Transphobia: Is this Noida apartment practising discrimination?

Rights activists voice their concerns and say that acts of re-emphasising stereotypes and discrimination must be called out and challenged before a court of law.

By Vikas Mavi
New Update

publive-image Supertech Emerald Court in Sector 93, Noida | Photo courtesy: Supertech

In November last year, the Residents Welfare Association of Supertech Emerald Court, one of the top residential apartment complexes in Sector 93 Noida, issued a notice to its residents giving an ultimatum to flat owners to evict bachelor tenants from their apartments by January 1, 2023.

The notice read: “Kindly refer to Rules of Self Governance within the Emerald Court Complex of our Bye Laws, Page 6 Clause (n) wherein: It is prohibited to use flats as paying guest accommodation, guest house or rented to a group of students/bachelors where the residency of the flat is of transient nature. All tenants must have police verification and ECO-RWA approval”. 

Audio conversation between The Probe’s Vikas Mavi and Uday Bhan Singh, President of the Residents Welfare Association (RWA) of Supertech Emerald Court, Noida.

When The Probe reached out to the ECO RWA Board President for a response to the story, we learnt that the issue was far more complicated than it seemed. The RWA President, Uday Bhan Singh, told us that the apartment is not open to accommodating bachelors and live-in couples and would ask the flat owners to reconsider their decision if members from the LGBTQ community were to become tenants of the residential complex.

Here are excerpts from the conversation between The Probe’s Vikas Mavi and Uday Bhan Singh, President of the Residents Welfare Association (RWA) of Supertech Emerald Court:

Reporter: Let’s say I’m gay, and I have got my agreement fully intact with my flat owner, and I have got my police verification done. So, will you allow me to be a part of this society and live here? 

RWA President: That’s why in the bye-laws we have said: “duly approved by the RWA”. When a flat owner comes, and he says I have given my flat to three persons or four persons. One girl, one boy, one man, one “this thing”... So, we discuss with the flat owners whether it is good for society or whether it is bad for society, and once we both discuss it, if it is allowed… it is allowed.

Reporter: Let’s say I am gay, and my flat owner is okay with it…

RWA President: If he is okay... if we have any objections, we get it clarified, and we ask these people also… In case you “make any indecent things”, you are liable to be ticked off. Also, you may be said “goodbye”.

Reporter: What about the LGBTQ community?

RWA President: See, we have not come across. If that is so, let the owner of the flat declare that they are in a live-in relationship. Then, as the situation comes, we will crossover. We have not come across such things so far.

Reporter: If a certain person is from the LGBTQ community, maybe a transgender person...

RWA President: Before allowing them, we can ask the flat owners; perhaps you please think again about whether you are allowing these persons or not. There may be some agent who is allowing… Perhaps you are not in the picture… That’s why the third check, that is, the ECO-RWA board approval, is required.

Vikas Mavi: So, you are saying that you will ask the owners to reconsider and reconfirm…

Uday Bhan Singh: Yes, yes, yes.

Vikas Mavi: What if the RWA doesn’t approve, and the flat owner still decides to rent out the flat? Then what will you do?

Uday Bhan Singh: In that case, the board will sit down, and we will take the help of a lawyer and decide.

During the course of the audio and video conversations, the RWA President made it amply clear that even if tenants had a valid legal rent agreement with their flat owners and if their police verification was also intact, the RWA still had the final say in deciding who stays in the flats. When asked if a gay couple would be allowed to rent out a flat, the RWA President says, “we will discuss with the flat owners whether it is good for the society or whether it is bad for the society, and once we both discuss it, if it is allowed… it is allowed”.

Strangely, the apartment which has existed in Noida for several years - according to the President - has not witnessed a single incident of flats being rented out to members of the LGBTQ community. He adds that the RWA would ask the flat owners to reconsider if the owner decides to rent out his apartment to a member of the LGBTQ community.

Rights activists have expressed shock and dismay at the continuous stereotyping and discrimination of people from the LGBTQIA+ community. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a prominent transgender rights activist, says such discrimination is nothing but a violation of the law of the land, and bye-laws of apartments cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against members from marginalised communities.

“This is horrendously bad and violates the law of the land. I am also a transgender person and have been living in a rented accommodation in IP Extension in a society in Delhi for the last four years. My neighbours have been very kind, and we follow all the norms. We are not a nuisance to society. We are as human and as Indian as anybody. People who create such division in society should be taken in front of the court, and they should be challenged because this kind of behaviour is spreading stigma and re-emphasising discrimination,” asserts Laxmi.

Laxmi notes that gender and sexuality are personal matters, and such discrimination is against the law of the land and only hardens the efforts being put forward by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Ankan Biswas, the first transgender advocate in the West Bengal Legal Services Authority, states that such discrimination is not just a one-off incident but is practised across apartments and states in India. “These problems have existed in many states, including West Bengal. In Jadavpur, an incident occurred wherein two men were staying together as a couple with a valid rental agreement. The owner shunted out the men when he got to know about their sexual orientation. After that, some NGOs got involved and following a lot of advocacy these men were finally allowed back into the flat. They use these bye-laws to restrict many marginalised communities. Though these bye-laws don’t explicitly mention things, it does give a lot of room for misinterpretation. I have also faced discrimination in the past. I really feel that there needs to be a lot of awareness,” contends Ankan.

Dr Aqsa Shaikh, one of India’s first transgender doctors and a vocal advocate for rights-based gender justice for transgender persons, concedes that many marginalised communities face issues from the RWAs when they rent out flats. “This is commonly encountered by Muslim tenants, queer tenants, single women and by live-in couples. We need to understand that the law of the land is supreme. Being a queer person is not a crime. Being in a live-in relationship is not a crime. Therefore, any such kind of discrimination by an elected body like an RWA is trying to play supreme to the law of the land. Unfortunately, sometimes the house owners who are giving out flats on rent are also pressured by the RWA to not rent out the flats to non-vegetarians, Muslims, bachelors, live-in couples and people who are overtly queer looking. This is extremely pathetic and has to be called out,” affirms Aqsa.

Please note: If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and have faced discrimination and want to voice your concerns, do write to us at [email protected]

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