In recent times, India has seen cases of LGTBQ inclusion in company policies; the most recent one being the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. Keshav Suri, the executive director of the company, is a supporter of rights for the LGBTQ community and is doing his bit by introducing a mediclaim policy that includes employees with same sex partners. He claims that he is not an activist and does not have a political agenda. The policy improvement by Suri can be seen as a representation of changing dynamics in India in terms of gender equality and inclusion. It comes into being despite the criminalisation of homosexuality under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
Keshav Suri’s initiative was long called for in India, a country that is ironically an ardent supporter of human rights. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights are universal legal guarantees protecting individuals and groups against actions which interfere with fundamental freedoms and human dignity. India was an active contributor in the drafting of the declaration. The Indian constitution incorporates the rights cited in the Universal Declaration in the form of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle of State Policy. In spite of this, children here grow up learning through unofficial means or the media, about the ‘LGBTQ community’, inadvertently separating them from the rest of the population as a disempowered minority. What is difficult to fathom for a large portion of young India is how the government remains blind to the fact that we are all human beings before minorities or homosexuals or heterosexuals. There is a quite straightforward logic that drives the LGBTQ rights movement- ALL human beings should be entitled to ‘Human Rights’.
In conversation with The Quint magazine, Suri brought into light another aspect of the movement saying, “Let us show them (government) the economic damage they are doing, people understand the simplistic power of the rupee.” Inclusion of LGBTQ identifying people in the workforce and company as well as government policies would be an economical move for the country. It would increase not only the workforce but also the nation’s GDP by a significant amount. World Bank conducted a study on the ‘Economic cost of homophobia’, which states that the estimated annual cost of homophobia in India is between 0.1-1.7 % of GDP. India, (especially under the Modi government) aims to make economic development accessible to all sections of society and regions of the nation. A major limitation of the government process is that it refuses to acknowledge that LGBTQ exclusion has a negative impact on the development it aims to achieve.
There are few other companies which have introduced gender neutral policies for their employees. The Royal Bank of Scotland in March introduced the title ‘Mx’ removing the need to include gender in their online banking registration process. Such efforts are taking India to a more inclusive era of gender equality with real impact.
Himanshi Dhawan, Hospitality Chain Introduces Mediclaim Policy for LGBTQ, The Times of India.