Research Intern, Jindal Centre for Global South
O.P. Jindal Global University
Email ID: email@example.com
The queer community has been fighting for their rights, ranging from education to legal unions across the whole world. Countries in the Global North have taken needful measures to tackle challenges faced by the community. This article will evaluate the factors causing the barriers for Queer persons in breaking into the job market, the challenges faced by the community and analyse the steps or provisions taken by policymakers and companies for inclusion of the LGBTQIA+. It will also create an understanding for companies and policymakers of India and other Global South Nations for understanding and tackling this issue of Workplace Discriminations. Here, Global South refers to the Nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania whose economies are either in the developing or under-developed category.
Many factors have contributed to the marginalization of the LGBTQIA+ community in the society, especially in Global South Nations. Some of them include the strong influence of religious texts, misconceptions about the community, viewing them as a group of ‘Sinners’ due to the influence of Islam in the Medieval times and Christianity in the Colonial era. Both the Islamic Rulers and the Europeans cited verses from the Quran and Bible to justify their claims against Homosexuality. The most common claim from both the religions is that “its unnatural” for people of the same sex to engage in any form of sexual activity. However, these claims were a contrast from the realities in Africa and Asia where transgenders and queer individuals were seen as divine figures or the one blessed by the Gods.
United Nations and its related bodies, especially UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) declarations are either objected or abstained by most Global South Nations.
One such example is the Resolution, which was adopted on June 30, 2016, which was on “Protection Against Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” (UNHRC 2016). The nations which voted against the resolution were Algeria, Bangladesh, China, UAE etc. A few nations including India, Namibia, Philippines, and South Africa chose to abstain from voting. Almost all of the nations which are mentioned above are based in the Global South, most of these nations having anti-LGBTQIA+ legislations and criminalization of Homosexuality in criminal law. Homosexuality was criminalized in most of these states where the said criminals were imprisoned or in some states like Brunei, Mauritania, Parts of Somalia and Nigeria, people who engage in sexual activity are given capital punishment which also includes “stoning to death”, a punishment in the lines of the Sharia Law. (McCarthy, 2019)
In India, the colonial-era law, Section 377, was struck down by the Supreme Court which made Homosexuality legalised, no longer being a criminal offence. In further hearings by the legal authorities of India, same-sex live-in relationships have not been deemed illegal, however, there is no existing legislation for the legality of same-sex marital unions till date in India (TNN 2018). When it comes to employment in India, LGBTQIA+ persons are not allowed to apply in the armed forces. Several Indian states have allowed Transgenders to apply in police as well as state civil services, though it has been a tedious process with interference required from the judiciary or government. However, the corporate world has not treated the queer community fairly when it comes to recruitment.
Another controversial legislation passed by the Indian government is the “Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019” in which the Indian Government established certain safe guards for the safety and protection of transgender persons in India. It introduced a special body called the “National Council For Transgender Persons”. This body has an advisory role where they aid the government in highlighting the matters of the Trangender, Intersex and other individuals of the LGBTQIA+ community.
This legislation was criticised by the Indian Transgender community as it only identified persons with a “transgender certificate” as belonging to the transgender community. And to do so, a tedious process of filing an application and submitting it to the district magistrate, needs to be done. The legislation also disallowed any mandatory reservations for transgender people in educational institutions, legislative bodies, civil service and more. The legislation has blurred the lines between transgender and intersex persons and clubbed the two together by specifying that transgendered persons will only be registered upon submitting a sex reassignment surgery certificate. This action also prevents the self determination of individuals who don’t want to undertake the surgery or don’t have the means of taking the surgery. (Kanan 2019) (Pathak 2019)
A Survey was conducted in 2016 by Parmesh Shahani from the Varta Trust, where 100 participants shared their insights on their openness about being a queer individual in major companies in the Indian corporate sector. It was found that despite finding acceptance at their workplace, less than half of the respondents stated that they were covered under anti-discrimination laws. Moreover, it turned out that a majority of these companies didn’t have any formal LGBTQIA+ resource groups. (P. Shahani 2016)
Most African Nations with the exception of Southern African States have no protection mechanisms to prevent workplace discrimiation for Queer Individuals. Angola with its General Labour Law (2015) and South Africa with a multitude of acts passed in the years between 1995-2000 have provided legal safeguards in their legal systems. For Asia, major steps have been taken by Taiwan and Thailand through laws.
Here are some suggestions mentioned that may be used by law makers in the Global South to help include the LGBTQIA+ community in the mainstream society: –
- Proper Collection of data on LGBTQIA+ persons
Government organizations in the Global South lack data on persons belonging to the queer community, subsequently creating challenges for policy makers to formulate policies. The only data which is available has a limited sample size due to surveys done in snowballing methods. In official databases, there is data related to the transgender community only.
- Provision Martial or Civil Union Status
In the global south, recognition for same-sex unions are seen in Latin America with a few exception like Peru, Suriname, Paraguay, Venezuela and Guyana, however in Africa and Asia, barring South Africa and Taiwan, no nations have any provisions for the recognition of same sex unions. In India, The Supreme Court has taken Petitions related to Same-Sex Marriages from the state High Courts to the Supreme Court. There has been a positive response by the judiciary. It can be the beginning of a whole lot of progress for queer persons in other areas such as adoption and property rights as well.
- Reservation in Educational Institutions, Recruitment in Governmental Bodies
In the Global North, Queer Individuals can join the armed forces or governmental organizations without any discrimination in the recruitment process. They also face little ot no discrimination in admission in educational institutions. Ill-treatment
In India, to encourage a safer inclusion, a certain percentage of seats/position can be reserved for LGBTQIA+ individuals in educational institutions, civil service etc.
- Sex Education and Awareness of Sexuality in Schools
No mentions of sex education in school curriculum have added fuel to the misunderstood, stereotypical thinking and prevalence of prejudices in children and young adults. Since these topics are treated as taboo, discussions related to them are often avoided, creating a difficulty for Queer individuals to navigate in the journey for coming terms to their identity. Sex Education will not only bring in awareness about safe sex and consent but also break away the stereotypes towards transgenders and queer individuals.
- Creation of LGBTQIA+ Support Cells in Schools, Universities, Offices
Support Cells can act as a safe space for individuals to talk about any challenges they face within an institution as well as help people to adjust in a new environment. It can also include professional mental health experts who can provide mental healthcare.
Contrary to other institutions, the media industry has opened its arms to the Queer community of the world after a long period of characterization of the community in the silver screen. The social media driven era also helped the youth, especially the Gen-Z to understand the Queer community and provide them a platform to express themselves as well as the challenges faced by them. However, there is a long way to go until queer persons are treated as citizens with equal rights and representation. Countries like Thailand, Taiwan have taken steps for the inclusion of the community in their nations and India to some extent has started taking baby steps in this direction. If there are legal safeguards as well as acceptance within the society, neighboring nations will may also get a push to take active measures to protect and safeguard this marginalized community.
TNN. (2018). Supreme Court verdict on Section 377: ‘Gay sex is not a crime,’ says Supreme Court in historic judgement | India News – Times of India. The Times of India., from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/gay-sex-is-not-a-crime-says-supreme-court-in-historic-judgement/articleshow/65695172.cms
Government of India. (2019). THE TRANSGENDERPERSONS (PROTECTIONOFRIGHTS) ACT, 2019 from. https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/13091/1/a2019-40.pdf
Parmesh Shahani, P. (2016). The Indian LGBT Workplace Climate Survey 2016 – Varta Trust. The Indian LGBT Workplace Climate Survey 2016. From https://vartagensex.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/1559396942000-mingle-lgbt-wrkplc-climt-srvy-2016.pdf
Badgett, M.V. Lee. 2014. The Economic Cost of Stigma and the Exclusion of LGBT People : A Case Study of India. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/21515 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
UNHRC.2016. Resolution 32/2
Kanan. (2019, November 30). Why are there objections to the Transgender Persons Bill? Why Are There Objections to the Transgender Persons Bill? – the Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/why-are-there-objections-to-the-transgender-persons-bill/article61612545.ece
Pathak, S. (2019, December 4). India Just Passed A Trans Rights Bill. Why Are Trans Activists Protesting It? NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/12/04/784398783/india-just-passed-a-trans-rights-bill-why-are-trans-activists-protesting-it
McCarthy, N. (2019, April 3). Infographic: Where Homosexuality Is Punishable By Death. In Statista Infographics. https://www.statista.com/chart/17587/countries-where-homosexuality-can-result-in-the-death-penalty/
LGBT Rights by Country & Travel Guide | Equaldex. (2023, March 7). LGBT Rights by Country & Travel Guide | Equaldex. https://www.equaldex.com/
Carroll, A. (2016). The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association | ILGAWorld. https://ilga.org/downloads/02_ILGA_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_2016_ENG_WEB_150516.pdf
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.