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Fearing The Unknown- Building An LGBTQ Friendly Culture

Queer community is still unheard in the society and needs champions and leaders to receive their fundamental rights of expression. Keshav Suri and Zainab Patel have unequivocally stood up for the rights of the LGBT community and during the session discussed about the fear of the unknown and violence against the community.

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The fourth panel during the DEI Global Summit discussed the issue of hiring people from queer communities and its plausible clauses.   

This panel brings forward the discussion on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer along with the social construct of understanding this area with the lens being the ‘other’ in the society. The panel consisted of Keshav Suri, Executive Director, Lalit Suri Hospitality Group and Zainab Patel, National Manager Health & Human Rights, UNDP. It was chaired by Dr Niru Kumar, Founder, Ask Insights.

Keshav has been vocal on raising the issues on queer community and has stood firmly for the rights of the queer community. He informs that awkwardness that is felt in India by people on the topic of LGBTQ during a discussion on diversity and inclusion, is mainly because of Section 377. There is less clarity on these programmes on LGBTQ in the country. Various companies across the world haven’t been awkward on this then why do we feel uncomfortable talking on this. But there isn’t any excuse anymore after September 2018. He opines that earlier there wasn’t any open discussion related to sexuality. Now, we can run programmes, have mediclaims and other rights which weren’t available earlier. The change is happening at a rapid pace as now we have an agenda for LGBTQ in the Election Manifesto of a party. It is a positive sign. Even Godrej has now set aside Rs 5 lakh for its employees who are willing to change their sex. 

Zainab painted a vivid picture of transgender people because they faced the most basic of issues of either eve-teasing or sniggering or for that matter usage of washroom or bullying. Since September 2018 till now, she said that the reality of existence for queer community is still a struggle because judgements are just wise words from an old book until you ask people to open the book and read it aloud. Nevertheless, after Section 377, people have become empowered to have their own choices and choices represent us in the social actions that we do in our day-to-day lives. In 2019, we have 4 transgender people running for elections in India, it is indeed fantastic. Back in 2004, someone had to petition in Madras to ask for voting rights for Trans people. However, today the scenario has changed. This change hasn’t come because of any judgement but due to business leaders, common people like us who are championing for the rights of the community. The violence against Trans people is so internalized that its part of their lives. 

Zainab considers herself as a disruptor rather than a conversationist. Further, Keshav informs that we as a community should go beyond holding a rainbow flag and be accountable to support the community and should trickle down the effort to the last level. Thought leaders have a responsibility to create an environment of diversity and inclusion and bring about a substantial change.


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