Activist Arun Ferriera. Photo: AFP
Activist Arun Ferriera. Photo: AFP

Mood: How the Lounge team is feeling this week

From crackdown on human rights lawyers to a ban on Serena Williams' iconic catsuit, Lounge takes on the biggest updates of the week

Show some respect

The French Tennis Federation is introducing a dress code and outfits like Serena Williams’ black catsuit “will no longer be accepted" at the French Open. Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said in an interview to Tennis magazine: “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far.... One must respect the game and the place."

Here’s the problem with his argument: Respect is mutual. Williams has said the bodysuit helps prevent blood clots, a medical problem she has battled with. And with or without it, her choice deserves respect. The policing of women’s bodies by sports federations must end. And for those who are more interested in her catsuit than her game, maybe the problem lies in the perspective. —PKS

The rise of digital wellness

Silicon Valley has emerged as an unlikely monitor of smartphone use in the last few months. In quick succession, tech giants like Google and Apple announced new features to control smartphone dependency. The new Android 9 Pie, currently in Beta stage, offers a Digital Wellbeing dashboard that clocks your screen time and analyses your app use. Apple’s upcoming iOS 12 update will allow you to schedule “downtime" away from your phone and set usage limits for apps. Instagram, which research has found to be the most damaging social media platform for mental health, has launched a wellness dashboard that also allows you to set a daily limit. This week, YouTube became the latest tech company to join the digital wellness movement by launching a “time watched" feature that logs your viewing habits into daily and weekly time stats. —VC

Peaceful easy feeling

Forty-two years after it was released, the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 has reclaimed the title of the highest-selling album in the US. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the album is now a 38xPlatinum record (an album has to sell one million units to be considered a Platinum record), narrowly beating Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which had held the top spot since 2009. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) annual Global Music Report of 2017, the US is the world’s largest market for music, valued at $5,916.1 million (around 41,400 crore).

And there’s more good news for the band. Their other 1976 album, Hotel California, has made a massive jump in sales over the past decade, to become the third best-selling album of all time. —BB

Crackdown on human rights lawyers

Speaking on the sidelines of a press conference in Mumbai held by 24 civil society organizations to protest the arrest of five human rights activists and lawyers, senior advocate Mihir Desai said, “This will absolutely create a chilling effect. The reason they’re targeting lawyers and urban activists is to make sure that the rural poor and the marginalized can’t get any help."

The coordinated cross-country raids on 28 August represent a new chapter in the already antagonistic relationship between civil society and the Indian state. Among the arrested are activist-lawyers Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, poet Varavara Rao, and journalist Gautam Navlakha. This follows the arrest of five others in June, including lawyer Surendra Gadling. All 10 stand accused of having “Maoist links" and of being involved in the violence at Bhima Koregaon in January.

That Dalit and left-wing activists are being charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, ostensibly meant to tackle violent terrorists, is worrying. Of the lawyers arrested or raided, each one has been a vocal critic of the establishment or has embarrassed the government by helping secure high-profile acquittals in UAPA cases. They are now being targeted under the same law.

The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that lawyers should not be identified with their clients’ causes. But as these arrests and others in recent months prove, this isn’t the case for those who represent alleged Maoists. This crackdown on public-spirited lawyers risks undermining a basic pillar of the justice system—the right to a legal defence, regardless of the crime. If lawyers are intimidated into avoiding human rights cases, that might prove much more damaging to the country than any Maoist plot. —BK

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