LGBTQ are the segment of society that has no rights: Keshav Suri
Keshav Suri, 33, executive director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, which owns The Lalit hotel, filed a petition in the Supreme Court last week against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises all forms of non-penile vaginal intercourse.
On April 23, the court directed the Centre to respond to Suri’s plea to tackle discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) and intersex people within a week. The Lalit is one of the 83 global firms that support the United Nations Standards of Conduct for Business, released in October 2017. In an interview with Dhamini Ratnam, Suri said the discrimination brought about by Section 377 does not only threaten the dignity of LGBTQ people but also hurts the country economically.
At what point did you decide to file a petition seeking to challenge Section 377?
I was born gay and there was never a moment in my life where I doubted it. Of course there was family drama when I came out to them, but I have been able to file this petition only due to my mother’s support.
It was the shooting at Pulse in Orlando [a nightclub in Florida where a shooting in June 2016 left 49 people dead, many of whom were gay] that hit me. You could say it was my personal awakening. There were so many people who grieved for [the victims] openly in the US, and I wondered, what if something like that were to happen here? Would people say we deserved to be shot because they are gay? We’re that segment of society that has no rights. It was also my professional awakening to bring about change in my own company. I wanted to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ community.
Apart from arguing for dignity, your writ also focuses on the socioeconomic impact of discrimination brought about by Section 377.
As per World Bank estimates, discrimination against LGBTQ community costs the country billions of dollars [a 2014 interim report estimated the Indian economy lost the equivalent of anywhere between 0.1 and 1.7% of its GDP.] It’s time to stop ignoring this. At the same time, there is also a high spending community that does not come to the country because of Section 377. The tourism of this country is taking a big hit. It’s a matter of the pink dollar.