This week officials from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) met with Indian business leaders in Mumbai to discuss the importance of fostering work environments that are welcoming of the LGBT community. This was the first such UN meeting, others are scheduled to take place over the coming months in Europe, Africa, and North America.
According to the World Bank, homophobia and transphobia cost the Indian economy an estimated $31 billion in 2014. A representative from the OHCHR stated, “there is an increasing understanding among companies worldwide of the multiple benefits of diversity and inclusion. It creates a window of opportunity for the United Nations to develop guidelines on the ways corporations can respect and promote the human rights of LGBT people within their walls, but equally important outside of them.”
Companies have been wary of openly promoting LGBT rights in the country, especially after the Supreme Court of India upheld the colonial-era Section 377 law criminalizing gay sex in 2013. According to research from the Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment, a majority of employees in the country are not covered by workplace nondiscrimination policies. However, some firms are making progress. Parmesh Shahani, an executive with Godrej Industries, stated in an interview, “being LGBT inclusive aligns completely with our core values of equality and helps create a workplace that empowers each employee to bring their whole self to work. We also believe it makes good business sense–in the search for talent and in creating a workplace in which innovation thrives.”