~ 3 Years since article 377, LGBTQ Community still battling prejudice~
Mumbai September 2021: In a world that places utmost importance on outward success and recognition, the daily tussle of ‘who we are and ‘how people should perceive us’ can be nerve-wracking especially when we talk about gender equality, diversity, equity, and inclusion. September 2018 was the year when Section 377 that criminalized the LGBTQ+ people was read down. On the historic day of Sep 6, 2018, a bench comprising of 5 judges decriminalized homosexuality that was a part of the Indian Penal code for 158 years! India joined the list of 120 countries that legalized homosexuality. The court ruled that any discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation would entail a violation of the fundamental freedom of expression.
Many organizations in India are working for the rights of this community, one of the organizations is Re-Link. Re-Link, Founded and spearheaded by Deepa A Agarwal is a research-based diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy firm. It helps organizations remove barriers to inclusion and build a culture of tolerance. An expert panelist with the Centre for Global Inclusion and has presented papers at international forums such as the Forum of Emotional Intelligence, WEF, Vividh, and several others. She has spearheaded several interventions for organizations to help create more inclusive workplaces. Innovative initiatives like the digitized interventions on tackling stereotypes and biases, award-winning initiatives like Transition Guidelines: Returning Mother’s Project. She is also a debutant author of the out-of-league book ‘The Hangover of Choices’, which is a reflection of her passion. ‘The Hangover of Choices’ is the recipient of the award titled “Exceptional Woman of Excellence” by the Women Economic Forum.
She founded Re-Link in 2017 which specializes in helping organizations engage employees from the leadership team and across all levels. Through their immersive communication material on the topics of stereotypes, prejudices, and biases they help the organization to better understand the diverse strands of gender, LGBTQ+ and personality types to have a lasting impact. Re-Link works with global experts from various specializations, which helps them in creating holistic solutions.
Speaking about Re-Link, Deepa A Agarwal, Founder, and Chief Inclusion Officer Re-Link said, “It’s been four years since we started, and we are slowly and steadily moving in the direction of making a mindset shift. As the name suggests, Re-Link is the apt way to describe the work we intended to do: actively present the voice and dilemmas of corporates and under-represented groups to each other. Over the years, we have come to recognize that historically excluded voices and diverse groups need to be heard if the idea of diversity and inclusion is to sustain itself and create a long-term impact”.
Many organizations, which had largely remained silent on the topic of LGBTQ+ Inclusion went ahead and pledged their support. Until Sep 2018, though recognized as an important diversity strand to address, organizations were not able to openly design interventions, to make this socially alienated group find acceptance within the workplace: The business benefits of having a diverse workforce is now well-established, with corporate organizations increasingly recognizing the associated benefits in the form of employee engagement, productivity, retention, and innovation to name a few.
Re-Link offers a 360-degree perspective and works closely with several top-notch companies across sectors to design policies, diagnosing the gaps in the culture, create an inclusive climate by auditing and making talent processes inclusive. In addition, it offers more services to organizations like training its employees, building a strong business case for diversity and inclusion at the workplace, and designing communication material.
Though there is a change in the perception of people and society towards the LGBTQ+ community but the reality says, that while organizations may have openly pledged support, internally many employees, people managers, continue to remain unaware of the various challenges that the community members face daily; starting with understanding the terminology, ways to support in case individual wishes to come out of the closet and creating a bias-free team environment. Added to this are the lack of policies – same-sex partner benefits, zero tolerance of harassment towards the LGBTQ+ community, bias-free recruitments, and promotions process, to name a few.
In short, the road to equity is still a long one for the LGBTQ+ community. If organizations are to create a truly inclusive environment for all its employees, it needs to go beyond pledging support- rather they have to take active and concrete steps, always focusing on improving the experience of its employees.
And in this long journey Re-Link pledge to work slowly and steadily moving in the direction of making a mindset shift and giving the LGBTQ+ community the rights they deserve!