Vichaar: Economic discrimination against the queer community as witnessed during the lockdown

“More than economic cost, it is the human cost…How many lives do we lose every single day from the community? Countless.” – Mr. Srini Ramaswamy

The queerentine experience during the lockdown has been very difficult. The challenges for the community have escalated, pushing individuals from the community to spaces that are emotionally, physically, and sexually unsafe for them. In this episode of Vichaar Mr. Srini Ramaswamy, cofounder of India’s first diversity & inclusion consulting organisation ‘Pride Circle, addresses the hurdles faced by the queer community during the lockdown and specifically the economic discrimination inflicted on them.

Mr. Srini has been involved in transforming over 150 Indian & Multinational companies across India by fostering an inclusive, diverse work environment, enabling employees to bring out their authentic selves and work efficiently.

The podcast commences by Mr. Srini introducing the problems faced by the LGBTQ+ community. He links LGBTQ+ prejudices to childhood where rejection from family and friends at a very early age has a long-lasting impact on the way individuals identify and express themselves in adulthood. Moreover, these experiences shape professional identities, affecting accessibility to resources and income that economically have repercussions at a national level.

A World Bank pilot study (2014) suggested that discrimination against LGBT people in a country like India could be costing that country’s economy up to $32 billion a year in lost economic output. As discussed in the podcast, there is a vicious circle of discrimination, lack of education and poverty created that in turn effects the economy. This podcast provides a larger perspective on the macroeconomic impact caused due to the discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

There is a cultural connotation to the jobs the LGBTQ+ community adopts, especially the hijra community in India. While that may not be out of choice, it has been seen that the hijra community has been involved in visiting homes during times of celebrations to bless the family (swasti badhai), in order to financially sustain themselves.

Mr. Srini pointed out that a lot of people from the transgender community were undergoing transitionary treatments at the time lockdown was imposed, and now they could no more afford it as income from swasti badhai was almost negligible due to the reduction in celebrative events.

Loss of jobs forced people from the community to go back to their homes where they were mistreated. Pre-lockdown, LGBTQ+ individuals enrolled themselves into gharana systems and created relations and networks outside their own families to protect themselves and their identity. The lockdown not only resulted into unemployment but also loosened these networks that deeply affected the mental and physical wellbeing of the community.

Mr. Srini concludes by introducing the concept of ‘pinkwashing’. Stressing on the importance of workplace inclusivity, Mr. Srini provides solutions to ensure workplace safety. It is key to communicate and normalize conversations involving queer identities, especially amongst the leaders and the top executives. Overall, this podcast is very informative and discusses economic discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community as a core concept. Mr. Srini’s experience and fieldwork make this podcast an interesting podcast that one must not miss.

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