As Selisse Berry will attest, the pursuit of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals is not strictly an American quest. Earlier this year, the founder and CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates traveled to Bangalore, India, to discuss equality in the workplace with LGBT community leaders and corporate officials.
A major focus of the cross-organizational meeting was to share best practices and create an action plan for next steps for safe and equitable workplaces and ways in which heterosexual allies can support their LGBT colleagues.
While Berry was in Bangalore, also known as the Silicon Valley of India, the country’s highest court upheld an earlier ruling that criminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature,” including same-sex relationships. The ruling represents a substantial impediment to any progress in LGBT equality and has broad implications in the workplace, according to one of India’s most vocal LGBT advocates.
“At a moment when the LGBT movement in India has suffered a significant legal setback, the infusion of energy and solidarity that Out & Equal brought here was heartening,”said Minal Hajratwala, an India-born LGBT activist and author of “Out! Stories from the New Queer India.”
She said, “Multinational companies with operations in India are scrambling to find a response that upholds their international values of nondiscrimination and inclusivity, while also being sensitive to the local legal situation. Out & Equal, which blends a deep understanding of the corporate mindset and a strong commitment to the long-term struggle for LGBT equality, is an invaluable voice at the table.”
The heart and soul of Out & Equal’s mission is to help companies create environments that value and respect all employees. The focus expanded internationally last year with the first Global LGBT Workplace Summit in London and partnerships with local organizations across Europe, Asia and Latin America.
“While marriage rights for same-sex couples are advancing in the U.S. and around the world, the basic human rights of LGBT people are in danger in many countries across Asia and Africa,” Berry said. “Same-sex relationships have become illegal in Nigeria and India, and persecution in Russia and Uganda has become a grave concern. We have a duty and a responsibility as a community to stand up when we see injustice.”
She vowed that the partnership between Out & Equal, its corporate partners and local nongovernmental organizations in India will advance equality for LGBT people, regardless of the high court’s refusal to review the ban on gay sex.
“Working with these groups of brave leaders has been an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience,” Berry said. “I know that together we are creating safer and more equitable work environments for LGBT people working in India.”