This article traces the role of major corporations in navigating the changes that arose with the decriminalization of homosexuality.
During the month of September in the University of Delhi, the rainbow flag’s ubiquity was evident in corporate advertisements, from billboards, to logos and tweets—all decorated with the rainbow symbol of defiance and acceptance. This raises questions about the role that these corporations played in a long-standing struggle, that is far from over?
With the scrapping of certain aspects of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, came a wave of support from major corporations like Infosys, Google, Swiggy, Flipkart, Infosys, Uber, Ola, Google Pay, and IBM. In their fixtures and fittings, brands were adopting the rainbow sign as if it were ingrained in their social conscience. It was expected because legal recognition of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender (LGBTQ) community rendered them as potential consumers, and shocking because the corporations had nothing to do with the said movement and its struggles. The companies coming out in celebration of the landmark Supreme Court verdict is applaudable, but it begs an essential question, yet to be answered—does this support hold any intrinsic value or sincerity, post legal validation?
Swiggy’s celebratory poster said, “Its not been a piece of cake, but we made it”. This was perceived by some members of the LGBTQ community as trivialising their struggles by implying Swiggy’s participation in it. Companies that had no role to play in the rebellion or the anticipation that led upto the judgement, adopted pro-LGBTQ ideals as a marketing strategy immediately after the verdict. Multinational Companies (MNCs) such as Nike and Netflix are far more open to proactively hiring and representing LGBTQ people (to the point where, a movie about the coming out experience is a blasé concept) than home-grown companies which might take longer to adopt it in the same way. The Godrej Group is one of India’s very few corporates to have well-defined, pro-LGBTQ policies, including benefits for partners, irrespective of their gender.
Barring Godrej, status quo sees the fate of this community confined within the cloistered settings of apathetic or inefficient workplace policies. The Kochi Metro case is a typical example of an ostensibly noble intention frustrated by the bitter reality of public prejudice. A few years ago, Kochi Metro Rail Limited, appointed 23 transgender people in different positions in its workforce. In the first week of their jobs, eight out of the 23 trans people, all of whom were trans women, quit.
A report by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A), titled “Inclusion in India Inc.” stated that as many as 98% of companies surveyed said that they have not taken any concrete steps to make their workplace LGBTQ friendly or actively hire people from the community. Corporate influence cannot be understated in a mixed economy like ours and important issues revolving around individual identity, discrimination and safety shouldn’t be reduced to Corporate Social Responsibility events, Non Government Organisation donations, or seasonal social media posts.
Feature Image Credits: Swiggy India on Twitter