Is the Indian workplace really LGBTQ+ ready?

-Arghadeep Biswas || MBA HR-2018-2020

The LGBTQ community is a segment of people with non-heterosexual orientations, and it stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation). This fraternity and their human rights have recently come under the spotlight, both in India and around the world, with landmark advancements and legal steps taken to seamlessly merge the hitherto outcast community with the society.

The concept of human rights stands on the central premise that all humans are equal and deserve to be treated equally. The same is articulated under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, based on which, in a historic judgment, the Supreme Court of India abolished Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, thereby decriminalizing adult homosexual relationships. It was a decision that was celebrated across the country with great vigour and was seen as a major step taken, by a country otherwise perceived as traditional and conservative, towards removing the heavily prevalent discrimination towards the LGBTQ community.

However, looking at the Indian workforce, the question that one needs to ask is – whether legal protections and provisions directly translate to social acceptance and universal reception. While it is true that organizations in India probably employ the most diverse workforce in the world – in terms of ethnicity, race, culture, and age – it is also a fact that not all sections of the workforce enjoy the same privileges and equal facilities. In certain organizations, career opportunities for women still come at a premium at senior levels and, in some others, seniority is still preferred over meritocracy for promotions. Therefore, making the assumption that LGBTQ employees would be seamlessly integrated into workgroups and teams and would be provided equal opportunities is probably venturing into the unreasonable. The abolition of Section 377 was a strong statement of intent by the jurisdiction, however weaving the same into the existing social fabric is a different challenge.

The fact that Rani Kinnar, India’s first five-star rated transgender Uber driver, is making such big waves in the media is indicative of how much people like Rani, who in essence is a human, in flesh and blood, like all of us, are still viewed so differently and everything they do is microscopically observed (and judged on). The day when such happenings will not make the front page would be the day when we can even begin to think that the Indian workforce is really LGBTQ ready.

However, it is not to say that such a day will not arrive. India, as a country, is nothing if not an overcomer of odds. If India can provide the leading companies of the world (Google, Microsoft etc) with their CEOs, if India can employ more than 65 million women in different sectors, then there is no reason to believe that one day India will have LGBTQ employees working and flourishing in workplaces. However, standing in 2019, is the Indian workforce really LGBTQ+ ready? “Not today!”

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