When Axis Bank rolled out its new inclusive policies, it created a storm in the corporate world. Many started discussing whether it was the start of a brighter future, one where respect is not dependent upon one’s identity. A major chunk of our population has always swept such news under the rug because it is “uncomfortable.” The ignorant sense of pride that comes up with denying the natural tendencies and not allowing people to be who they are not only go beyond logic but also leads to economic distress.
Youth who identify as queer are more likely to be subjected to bullying or harassment at school or coaching classes which leads to high dropout rates. In a developing nation like ours where such discourses are uncommon, the data is even scarce. On top of that, when they come out to their family in hope of love and acceptance, they are often rejected and rendered homeless. According to a report of the department of law of Williams Institute; 40% of the homeless youth in major US cities identify as queer when they only constitute 10% of the total youth population. If this is the situation in a nation where the LGBTQIA+ population enjoys substantially more rights, imagine the scenario that is prevalent in a country like ours. Studies conducted in multiple nations state that people from the community suffer from having elevated rates of poverty and joblessness.
Mental health is another important point that needs to be taken into consideration. A study conducted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that people who identify as homosexual are four times more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide while transgender people are ten times more likely to do so. Each life lost or disregarded affects the economy in a negative manner. Even if we consider an ideal situation where a queer person did not face immense issues of mental and physical health, it is improbable that they would not face discrimination and harassment at the workplace, especially in a gendered society like ours. A study organized by the World Bank in 2015 suggested that India loses 1.7% of its GDP due to exclusionary practices towards the LGBTQIA+ community. The same study also mentioned that the decreased productivity and loss of years due to early death could generate costs up to the US $ 31 billion for our nation.
Over time, many reasons have contributed to the immigration of South Asian people to western countries, of which dignity and standard of living are among the main reasons. A term that has been gaining popularity in academia is ‘gay brain-drain’. As the name suggests, it refers to the movement of people belonging to sexual and gender minorities to a place where they are promised their due rights. Many of the petitioners for same-sex marriage in the country have raised the point of this particular brain drain in their appeal to legalize such unions. They have talked about how they are forced to determine career paths based on what would take them out of the country easily, leading to the lesser accomplishment of potentials. In an exclusive interview with The Quint, petitioner Lakshmi Manoharan opened up about her childhood desire to work in the administrative sector. She quickly realized that she cannot work with the government while being at loggerheads with the constitution itself. The awareness made her pursue machine learning and the engineer is now living her life in Seattle, USA.
Corporates and conglomerates have understood this through their profit-tainted lenses and are coming up with more inclusive criteria. In 2017, Godrej Group and Lalit Hotels have been named as one of the few Indian conglomerates to validate United Nations Human Rights LGBTI standards at work. The latter also has famously introduced an LGBTQIA+ friendly staff and work environment. Keshav Suri; the executive director of Lalit Hotels, is openly gay and has been in a long-term monogamous relationship with a French businessman. His own experience with false persecution has made him come up with inclusive terms for his own chain of hotels. An important thing to realize is that private sectors have not started to roll out such policies due to basic empathy but competitiveness. At a time when every major state is trying to establish itself as a financial hub, the only way they can survive is if they keep on reinventing themselves. Nations, especially the conservative countries of Asia, lack inclusive policies. So when in July of 2018, the Hong Kong court decided to grant visas to partners of queer emigrant professionals, it could have motivated other economies to do the same.
Bringing inclusive policies by private sectors might inspire public sectors but will not be of much help to the community unless sensitization is involved. For instance, Axis Bank; whose ‘Come As You Are’ scheme promised policies for LGBTQIA+ customers but fell flat because of ignorance. In 2018; Accenture, Thomson Reuters, Brunswick group formulated a survey which reported that inclusive policies were linked to an “increase in GDP per capita, competitiveness, entrepreneurship, urban development, talent retention and a better national reputation that could bring in additional direct investment.” Social exclusion is multi-faceted. Maybe, in a few years all the sectors could move towards acknowledging the dent their ignorance-based fear is causing for the nation. One can only hope.
Ayanabha Banerjee is an aspiring writer who hails from the northeast and identifies as queer. The self proclaimed workaholic is pursuing masters in Development Communication from AJK-MCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia; while helping build up a non-profit organization called Maan ki Umeed back home in Guwahati, Assam. He is very vocal about social issues and has never kept silent during political discussions. He also loves to think that his childhood trauma has made his humour better so let’s let him think writing such on a public platform is funny. You can find him on Instagram and Facebook.
Featured image source: Wikimedia Commons