Bengaluru: Employees from the LGBTQ community receive no legal protection from their employers in case of discrimination meted out on them by their colleagues or superiors in the company.
Soumitra Iyer, a recruiter at BXC Technology, informed The Observer: “We are not aware of any anti-discriminatory law for LGBTQ employees. We do not have any such recruitment policy.”
Despite the Supreme Court decriminalizing same-sex relationships, people from the LGBTQ community are still looked down upon at their workspaces. There is a lack of sensitivity and respect for different gender identities.
Employees from the community face harassment and a dismissive attitude from people in around their workplace. Colleagues refuse to recognize their sexual identity, crack jokes, play pranks and comment on what they should or shouldn’t wear. Bullying in schools and colleges has led to such workplace behaviour.
Zoya Khan (name changed), who is recognized as “they/them” said: “People look down upon me as if I don’t belong here. They don’t appreciate us for the kind of work we do, but (look at) what our sexual preferences are.”
Discrimination is manifested in hierarchy in workplaces.
The Indian Constitution forbids anybody from discriminating on the basis of gender, though it specifically does not talk about people of different sexual orientation.
Unlike transgenders, who are protected under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, there is no statute for people of other sexual identity. They can only go to court by referring to previous cases like the Justice Puttuswamy versus Union of India.
Vidhusi Manoraj, Programme Manager at Pride Circle, said: “Earlier the situation was worse, but with time firms are trying to be more inclusive and supportive than before. They should understand data protection of employees from the LGBTQ community is vital.”
However, a lot of workplaces — mainly multinational corporations — have started taking the initiative by holding sensitization programmes and encouraging diverse employees.
Organizations like Pride Circle and Humsafar Trust are working to make workplaces more inclusive and anti-discriminatory.
Experts from the LGBTQ community say more companies should conduct sensitization workshops and track the progress of such measures. If an individual can’t be who he/she/they are at work, then it impairs productivity. Therefore, there is an economic incentive for firms by allowing such diversification and sensitization.
Arvind Narrain, a founding member of the Alternative Law Forum and an advocate working for LGBTQ rights, said: “We are looking for a law that covers all public spaces because the gap lies in the legal regime. Till that gap is addressed, there is not much one can do about it.
“As adjudicated by Justice Nariman, it is the responsibility of the government to publicize the judgment of Navtej Singh Johar by using the media… that sexual preference is part of one’s dignity and a fundamental right. But the government has done nothing. There is a lot they should have done by now, but didn’t.”
More and more corporate firms are considering hiring employees from the community. But, according to experts, employers should enforce policies that provide security to all workers irrespective of their gender and sexual preferences, and punish offenders in case of harassment.
Section 377 of the IPC is just the base, but it puts forward a very powerful and resonant voice towards a more inclusive society for the LGBTQ community.