For a long time the LGBT community has been deprived of their expression of identity. In most cases identifying oneself as something other than the societal norms of what your identity should be generates backlash, which sadly starts from our home. We can wax eloquent about how our cultures promote harmonious coexistence regardless of religions, languages, cultures, values and what not, but reality, ultimately, remains far from ideal. The LGBT community’s preferences and choice of identity has been dealt fairly negatively historically, to to extents we’d rather not delve into in this post.
Fortunately, nations across the world have begun to offer official support to the LGBT community, first with decriminalisation and then with recognition. But the current scenario indicates that we have a long way to go before actualising this eutopic idea. This Pride Month, we explore a more specific issue,
Apart from the legal and social hurdles the LGBT community has faced serious financial hurdles over the years. There have been multiple discrimination cases across the country where individuals are at the receiving end for their sexual orientation. The 2018 TimesJobs survey offers a gloomy picture of the general attitude prevalent in workplaces towards LGBT individuals.
- 57% of the participants indicated a lackluster attitude by their companies in openly recruiting LGBT candidates.
- 55% responded that they faced bias in workplaces because of their gender identity, orientations and ethnicity.
Unfortunately securing a job, irrespective of well-paying, is seen as a major milestone in the LGBT community due to the discriminatory attitude of the people around. The members are left to take up low-paying chores, pushing them deeper in a dungy unstable financial hole.
The situation intensifies coming to the same-sex partners. Since the same-sex marriages are not legal in many nations, the provisions enjoyed by heterosexual partners can not be availed by the same-sex couples. In legal eyes, these same sex couples are essentially two strangers and are not given the recognition of a marital spouse as in heterosexual married couples. This has escalated financial miseries in already financially underserved LGBT members.
- LGBT individuals can not take family floater medical insurance, since from a legal perspective, a family of LGBT couples is non-existent. The grim scenario extends in the case of life insurance as well. This leaves the living member of the couple in a frightful condition at the untimely demise of the earning partner. The couple therefore have to be more pro-saving to secure a financial blanket in hard times.
- Many legal systems exempt ‘gifts’ like monetary help between family members from income tax. However such gifts between LGBT couples are viewed as gifts between strangers and are subject to tax above the limit of Rs 50,000 in value per annum. This couple therefore can not support each other in financial hardships without paying heavy taxes on the monetary help.
These are certain critical areas where the financial interests of members of LGBT community need to be safeguarded with legal amendments and provisions. The first step however remains in legalising same-sex marruages.
Evolving Policies In The Corporate World
Though the LGBT community faces discrimination at workplaces in terms of securing jobs and enjoying provisions same as their heterosexual counterparts, many leading brands are working to fill this gap and set up a diversified work environmrent offering equal opportunities to all. They are creating an example for other corporate members to create an unbiased environment with zero tolerance policy for any homo-trans-phobic activity.
- Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was the first company in India that offered medical benefits to same-sex partners and give surrogacy leaves irrespective of the partner’s gender. The organisation has been actively carrying out workshops for other companies to create actionable frameworks for equal LGBT inclusion in the workplace.
- Accenture offers its LGBT employees to share their inspiring journey on virtual platform to give voice to the closeted members of the community.
- IBM is encouraging their LGBT employees to put up video blogs on YouTube and hosting pride walks where their employees and members from other organisations can participate.
- Sodexo has organised a campaign against homophobia at workplaces and is actively recruiting members from the transgender community and providing a safe environment for them to work freely without any discrimination.
Many other companies are learning and taking up these initiatives at their own workplaces and creating a safe harbour for LGBT individuals to express their identities and safeguard their financial positions.
Support From Government And Political Entities
Over the years, governments, along with opposition parties globally have shifted their historically traditional stance, and moved to a more neutral position on the issue with no leaning on either side. While we may call this inadequate, it certainly is progress.
Civil rights activists and even governments have called on companies to offer more jobs to LGBT community and create a diversified environment back at workplaces.
In India, one of the oldest Indian political parties ‘Indian National Congress’ in their election manifesto dedicated a detailed action plan for the members of LGBT community in getting their rightful status and their rightful representation in workplaces and also directing gender sensitivity training in all government offices.
Though most political parties lauded the Indian Supreme Court’s historic move in abolishing section 377, there is not much to show for assistance with financial upliftment of the LGBT community from their end. Even on a global scale, the fight is being taken ahead by the existing non-profits and other LGBT pro groups in establishing equal financial provisions for LGBT individuals. The community has suffered for long at the hands of societal prejudice, and frankly is long overdue their dignified status and position. The idea of democratic countries with equality at their crux is basis enough for the financial liberation of the LGBT community.