“I am gay, that’s ok! I am lesbian, that’s ok!”
Slogans in this vein reverberated through two busy streets that pass through the Deccan area of Pune during a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride march held on Sunday morning.
The sixth edition of the march, with ‘Inclusivity at the workplace’ as its theme, received a rousing response despite the bad weather. In the first such instance, even representatives of multinational corporations participated in the event to express their solidarity with the LGBT cause.
“Raining or not, I would not have missed the walk,” said 31-year-old Ron, a gay call centre employee who stood in solidarity with fellow LGBT community members as they sought an environment free of discrimination in society – especially the workplace.
The participants of the Pune Pride Walk, which started from Sambhaji Park on JM Road, were armed with rainbow flags, masks, banners and posters. Many of them alleged that members of the LGBT community face harassment because of their sexual orientation.
Representatives of many corporate giants, such as IBM, Symantec and Thoughtworks, participated in the walk in solidarity with the LGBT community. Expressing his support to the cause, Dwight Cook – representative for Symantec – said: “The company is participating in the Pune March for the first time. By doing this, we would like to send out the message that we support inclusivity at the workplace.”
Like Cook, who is a member of the community, Thoughtworks called Naina Udupi – a transgender employee – all the way from Bangalore to attend the march.
LGBT-friendly companies design policies that ensure sexual inclusivity and maintain an atmosphere of diversity at the workplace.
The 2015 pride walk dwelt on the transgender community’s inability to express itself sexually due to the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This year, thousands of LGBT activists and their supporters took out parades to seek a non-discriminatory workspace environment.
“As more and more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender come out in the open, companies should undertake proactive initiatives and establish a policy of non-discrimination at the workplace,” said Bindumadhav Khire, president of the Samapathik Trust, which organises the march every year.
Vaishali Gunakikar of IBM said, “Many companies have come forward to ensure a harassment-free workplace for its employees, irrespective of their sexual orientation. IBM, which has always stood for inclusivity of LGBTs, has decided to stand in solidarity with this community.”
People of all ages – whether a part of the LGBT community or not – came out in support of the cause. “I am LGBT, but I have come here to extend my support to the community because I have witnessed discriminatory treatment being meted out to them,” said Mahima, a student of liberal arts from Symbiosis.
The march came to an end with participants reciting their anthem – Hum honge kaamayab – loud and clear, a clear expression of their belief that they will achieve equality one day.