On Thursday, September 6, the highest court in India read down Section 377 of the Penal Code, decriminalizing ‘unnatural sex’ between consenting adults. This is wonderful!
On the evening of September 5, I heard the news that the verdict would come out the next day. The overall feeling was that it would be favorable, and I thought, “Wow, that was fast.” At the hearing back in July, there was positive news coming out the courtroom, but I still had anxiety that the judgement might not be favorable.
They were expected to pronounce the verdict by 10:30am on September 6. The time was then pushed to 11:00am and then again to 11:30am. This delay heightened my anxiety – I just wanted to hear the verdict. The five-member bench penned down four separate but concurring judgments, with one judgement shared between two judges. Since the first judgment was in favor of reading down Section 377, it was understood that the remaining judgments were in favor of reading it down as well.
Immediately after the judgement I started getting messages from friends and people from the media reaching out for reactions. As happy as I was, my mind immediately started processing what the next course of action for LGBTQ individuals would be. Around this time the PRIDE ERG group in Symantec received an email from our Human Resources VP and country head Sudhanshu Pandit informing us of the verdict. It was then that I started to think about what this means to all LGBTQ employees and our allies within Symantec.
At Symantec India we officially launched the PRIDE ERG group in January 2016. Symantec has shown support to LGBTQ employees and visibly displayed its commitment by participating in Pride parades and sponsoring workplace related conferences in India. This public commitment and support from the leaders has sent a strong message within the organization that Symantec does not tolerate any kind of exclusion.
As happy as I was, my mind immediately started processing what the next course of action for LGBTQ individuals would be.
Corporate work spaces in India are more refined than public spaces. There is less in-your-face resistance at work to having conversations on LGBTQ issues at work than there is in public spaces. That said, there is still heavy resistance. Whenever we talk about workplace inclusion of LGBTQ employees the conversation has always gone back to Section 377, no matter how many times we explain the technicality of the section. Once in a national Diversity & Inclusion conference someone asked, “How can we lobby to hire and support criminals?” This was right after the session that explained Section 377.
So, this new ruling reading down Section 377 will allow us to have more open conversations about everyday issues LGBTQ employees face in the workplace. And we can begin to have more serious discussion about how we as an organization can collaborate to create a more inclusive workplace environment for LGBTQ individuals.
I am a visibly gay person in the office. I have access to senior leaders, and I lead the PRIDE ERG in India. I have experienced career success at Symantec as an openly gay person, and this new ruling will help me assure young LGBTQ employees at Symantec that their sexuality will not hinder their career growth within the organization. Furthermore, other globally visible LGBTQ role models in the company – along with support from Symantec leaders – will help spread that message as well.
This new ruling reading down Section 377 will allow us to have more open conversations about everyday issues LGBTQ employees face in the workplace.
With this new ruling, it will be business as usual for inclusion at Symantec. This news gives us energy and momentum to keep doing what we’re doing to make Symantec a more inclusive place for all of us. And, by publishing this article on the company blog, Symantec is once again publicly showing its support to all LGBTQ employees. For that, I am grateful.
Today, I feel safe and at ease at work. I don’t have to pretend or hide my social life. I can say that I went to a Pride march or I went out with queer friends. I can bring my whole self to the job.
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