Pride month is celebrated to recognize the struggles and achievements of people from the LGBTQ+ community while simultaneously spreading awareness on the struggles and triumphs of the community. With companies capitalizing on this agenda, by making their goods and services fit the theme of rainbow colours, it has lent some truth to the allyship of these organisations. However, the larger question remains whether the same allyship extend to job opportunities in organisations, access to opportunities, inclusivity and access to justice which they have been deprived of, owing to the discrimination faced by them throughout the years.
A safe workplace is a crucial aspect of the right to earn a livelihood, as afforded to the citizens of India under the Constitution. Safety is a term that has come to encompass more than physical safety. Do employees feel free to speak their minds? Do affected employees raise complaints about concerns they are facing? Does this right extend to everyone, in a diverse workforce, or are there iniquities in the access? A measure taken towards this is the implementation of the POSH laws in workplaces, with special powers to the IC to handle the cases. Although the issues faced are universal, the obstacles and the kind of problems that people from the community encounter in their workplaces are different from that of cis-gendered, heterosexual people.
Due to the stigma surrounding their gender and sexuality, it is exhausting for them to come out to their employees or to simply exist without having to hide their identity. In addition to that, they are put in certain situations which people not from the community (i.e., cis heteronormative folks) do not usually find themselves in, which are a blatant violation of their boundaries. These circumstances cause significant damage to their personal space and trust.
Forms of harassment faced by the community:
- Due to their stigmatized sexual or gender affinity, they tend to get caught in situations where they are faced with sexually inappropriate questions, about how they function sexually and questions about their personal lives which are invasive of their personal space.
- Some insensitive employees share graphic depictions aimed at bullying, shaming or harassing or otherwise othering the community, and this can happen if their peers are not educated or understanding enough.
- They are also subject to jokes with sexual innuendos and expected to ‘play along’ with sexual discussion, humour, or actions.
- Physical abuse in the form of groping and even rape, are faced by the minorities, with special emphasis on transgendered people as they are targeted by abusers as they believe they are entitled to sexual favours by trans people.
- are also worried about being outed without their consent. With sensitive information like this, they are also subjected to blackmailing and threats.
- Another form of abuse is when people aim to “convert” them. In the workplace, this manifests as unwelcome sexual advances by cis men to bisexual or homosexual women, in an attempt to ‘make them straight’.
They are also denied opportunities or promotions and the scope of development for them is very limited as companies see them as people fitting the quota and branding the organisation as one with a diverse workplace, rather than recognizing them as employees who have the potential to work wonders on the job.
It should be the company’s duty to ensure that their employees feel safe, no matter what their identity is, as it is not the duty of the employees to fight for their rights at their workspace. Also, there may be people who are not openly queer, so it is the duty of the peers to create an environment which is accepting or comfortable for them.
What can your employer do?
- Strong sensitization programs must be conducted to create awareness and ensure that the conduct of employees is in a way that does not invade anybody’s boundaries.
- Robust grievance redressal processes must be set up and be available to take complaints, investigate or facilitate a mediation and satisfactorily close the complaints.
- Policies must be updated, and grievance officers sensitized to include the types of sexual harassment that disproportionately affect the community.
- Mailers, posters and other collaterals should carry a message that the company takes inclusion seriously and that it welcomes and celebrates the queer community in the organisation.
With these thoughtful and proactive measures, you can ensure that your queer peers feel no fear.
At KelpHR, we firmly believe that cultivating safe, happy and inclusive work environments serves as the foundation for business transformation and expansion. We can help you and your organization embark on a journey towards a more inclusive and respectful workplace culture.
KelpHR was incorporated in 2013 to provide the best HR solutions to organizations, and to improve workplace culture across the board. Over the last 10 years, we have serviced more than 700 clients in India and a few overseas, across various industries in the areas of PoSH (prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), D, E & I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and EAP. But the common objective of all these services is to build safer, happier, inclusive and productive workplaces.
For our services related to Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH), Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D,E &I) or Employee Assistance programs (EAP) do get in touch with us at email@example.com, call +91-95001-29652 and we’d be able to help you with customized offerings suited to your organization