Pride and prejudice: Corporate India is becoming LGBT inclusive, but it’s still a slow march

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It’s World Pride Day, Monday, June 28, concluding an extraordinary month of celebration of inclusiveness and equal rights. And the integration of a sexual minority has also found resonance in Indian businesses, although there is still a long way to go.

An increasing number of Indian companies have started to review best practices in gender and sexuality, which has led to increased awareness of the special requirements. Much like the additional maternity leave and WFH facilities for working mothers, this has evolved to cover gay and lesbian couples for corporate immunizations and medical campaigns, as well as the addition of gender-neutral toilets in offices and even funding for sex reassignment surgeries.

Gay rights may have first hit India as a new concept in multinationals, but now they are increasingly accepted across the board. Some of the more well-known companies include Accenture and Capegemini in the IT sector, Tata Steel in manufacturing, Johnson & Johnson in consumer care, and Bharat Hotels in the hospitality and tourism industry. The list goes on – with diversity and inclusion (D&I) becoming a core human resources (HR) tenet, companies are now on the bandwagon. It is also helpful that all of the ‘best places to work’ and similar workplace reviews now place a high premium on inclusive policies.

Tata Steel, one of the first local giants to ‘come out’, provides funding for gender reassignment surgeries, along with all other regular benefits, to its LGBT employees. It is not alone. General Electric, for example, has gender-neutral toilets in its offices in India and participates in career fairs organized by gay support groups. SAP Labs India offers insurance and vacation benefits to LGBT couples and has an anonymous portal for staff members who are not yet “away” but need advice. Treatment and vaccinations against Covid are automatically included in the services of many of these companies.

The FICCI Chamber of Commerce recently developed a “Workplace Equality Index” to promote inclusion in Indian workplaces. FICCI already has a working group on gender issues and has developed toolkits and frameworks that Indian companies can use. “(This) will sow a catalyst for positivity and encourage businesses to be more diverse and inclusive,” said Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General of FICCI.

Johnson & Johnson in India not only offers all the benefits of mediclaim to same-sex partners, but also hosts webinars and employee groups like ‘Open and Out’ that encourage LGBT members to come out, share experiences and help other employees connect and engage. “We are finding that the more awareness we create on this topic, the more people accept and are aware of prejudices and unconscious perceptions,” said Sonal Jain, company human resources manager and consumer health manager. of the company. THE WEEK.

“Access to decent livelihoods and equal opportunities is essential to foster equality in India’s developing economy and in society at large. For this, organizations must adopt the identity of all people and their fundamental rights, ”adds Vipul Singh, divisional vice president and head of human resources at ADP India, a payroll software company.

Many other companies and brands have jumped into the Pride Month cause, creating everything from gay-specific products for engagement to advertisements with an LGBT awareness message. Senco, one of the leading gold and diamond brands, announced last week that Dutee Chand is their brand ambassador. Chand is the first openly gay Indian athlete. Another jewelry brand, Kerala’s Bhima, made an online sensation two months ago by featuring a trans woman in its ad campaign, in place of the usual models and decked out brides. Many shoe, t-shirt and watch brands also launched gay-specific product lines during this month.

June is celebrated as Pride Month and the 28th is Pride Day this year, marking global progress towards equality in all walks of life for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community. , or LGBTQI +. The commemoration of the Stonewall riots, when homosexuals first publicly protested against harassment and stood up for their rights, in 1969, has now gone beyond organizing rallies called “Pride marches” in major cities to cover almost all aspects of the company. It was during Barack Obama’s presidency of the United States that the concept of Pride Month was born, catalyzed by the Obama administration’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. One of the first acts of outgoing President Joe Biden was to order equal rights for sexual minorities in health, education, housing and credit.

However, progress in India has been too slow and still too limited to large companies that are either national wings of multinationals or new economy companies with major global exposure. Beyond the decriminalization of gay sex by the Section 377 judgment, there has been no breakthrough, with a case on the legalization of LGBT marriages still pending before the Supreme Court of India. Some opposition parties like AAP and Left have always supported LGBT rights, although many others dismiss it as a non-issue.

In early June, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote “love is love” on his social media handles to mark Pride Month, but it remains to be seen if it is of the official position of his party. And the less said about the LGBT politics of governing the BJP, the better.

“These conversations need to be led from the top,” says Sonal Jain of Johnson & Johnson. “Leadership should be seen as embracing a culture of accepting people of all identities and orientations. “


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