BENGALURU/NEW DELHI: The mood on the ground in Corporate India is clearly towards inclusion, notwithstanding the Supreme Court saying no to same-sex marriages. HR and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) heads at leading corporates including Godrej, Lupin, Axis Bank and Publicis Sapient said the SC order will not hamper India Inc’s drive to become more progressive and inclusive organisations.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Tuesday said the Supreme Court could not strike down the provisions of the Special Marriage Act and that Parliament should decide on the issue. However, it also issued directions to prevent discrimination against the queer community, recognise the right of transgender persons in heterosexual relationships to marry under the existing legal framework, and so on. “Inclusion is a long journey, and we are getting there,” said Parmesh Shahani, head of Godrej DEI Lab, adding that be it in terms of innovation or profitability, companies have realised that inclusivity is the way to go. “While a clearer marriage equality verdict would be more helpful, companies that want to be progressive will continue being progressive,” he said.
Shahani said the verdict included observations in favour of the queer community. While marriage may not be within the apex court’s ambit, the current on the ground is already that of inclusion, he said.
Yashwant Mahadik, president, global HR, at pharma major Lupin, said, “Things are progressing…Maybe it could have progressed faster, but this is not a setback. More and more companies are supporting LBGTQIA+ rights.” In recent years, companies have been stepping up initiatives to make themselves more LGBTQIA+ friendly – from extending insurance cover to LGBTQIA+ partners to creating LGBTQIA+-friendly leave policies, employee resource groups, ally programmes, gender-neutral restrooms, support in gender reassignment surgeries and so on. “Companies will need to keep strengthening agenda on inclusivity,” said Rajkamal Vempati, head HR at Axis Bank, which has in place: ‘ComeAsYouAre’, a charter of policies and practices for employees and customers from LGBTQIA+ community.
Some HR heads, however, felt that even though the CJI said that the same bundle of rights which every married couple has should be extended to same-sex couples, in practice, less-progressive companies would resist extending the benefits offered to married employees to same sex partners.
“From an inclusion perspective, this could impede progress for queer couples,” said an HR head on the condition of anonymity. “Some companies may use the refusal to legalise same-sex marriages as an excuse not to put more progressive benefits in place.”
Vieshaka L Dutta, director – diversity equity and inclusion, India, and APAC, at Publicis Sapient, said it is a mixed verdict even as it represents a step forward towards greater recognition of rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. “The community, however, had more hope from the verdict, particularly regarding marriage equality, a cause they view as a fundamental human right,” she said. “It’s important to acknowledge that the journey toward full equality is ongoing, with more milestones to achieve in the pursuit of equal rights.”
Saraswathi Kasturirangan, chief happiness officer of Deloitte India, said, “We accept our colleagues as they are, and we remain committed to adapting and strengthening our avenues of support with the evolving times.”
An HR head who requested anonymity said any resistance to bringing policies favouring LGBTQ+ “will happen mostly in some Indian companies”. “Multinationals, even Indian ones, would have to follow the same policy at a global level,” the person said.
Source: The Economic Times