By Prarthana Mitra
Days after Gay Pride Month 2018 came to an end, the celebratory mood still lingers in the air.
The LGBTQ community and its supporters all over the world take to the streets every June, walking for visibility, love and pride. Shunned, shamed and compelled for centuries to remain inside the closet, the pride walk is an integral part of normalising homosexual identity, just as their right to a safe workspace is a basic human right.
Even today, queer workers are denied the privileges, respect and security available to a cis-gendered heterosexual employee working at the same firm. Discrimination does not amount to careers in jeopardy alone, but worse, it is known to often culminate in abuse, violence and a toxic work environment.
What makes for a safe space, asked a study
Silver Swan conducted a study to determine which countries were the best and safest for gay people to work out of.
The LGBT Worldwide Workplace Index identifies and considers several key factors including workplace discrimination laws, employee rights, minimum wage and the inclusion of the LGBTQ community in each country. And as it turns out, the top spot goes to Luxembourg, trailed by Australia, New Zealand, Monaco and France. Out of the 20 leading countries, over 15 were European.
Luxembourg enjoys the highest ranking position as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries according to the Gay Travel Index. From Reddit threads to leading gay magazines, Luxembourg is described as a “safe protective place with freedom of expression” where you’d be fortunate to live in, should you identify with the LGBTQ spectrum.
Australia, which has the world’s highest minimum wage for labour, extends all employee privileges to its gay community. France and other West European countries, with some of the world’s best social sciences and fine arts schools and activist groups, treat their LGBTQ workers with the respect that is due to anyone, anywhere and with any sexual orientation. Scandinavian and Latin American countries fared on the index as well. According to the study, the National Assembly of Wales turns out to be most LGBTQ-inclusive employer on the basis of the Stonewall Index.
The fight must go on
In over half the world, especially in Asian and African countries, where homosexuality was legalised only in the new millennium, it continues to be treated as a social taboo to this day. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people still face stigma, discrimination, even threats to life.
In Chechnya, a purge was carried out by the government as recently as 2016, to weed the homosexual population out. The heinous attack at the Orlando gay bar which shook the world in 2014, bears further testimony to the seething intolerance towards the LGBTQ community at large, which naturally manifests itself in workplaces, in the absence of tight laws forbidding and addressing it.
Better late than never
Israel, Thailand, Nepal, China, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are some of the Asian countries appearing on Silver Swan’s list of 75 safest countries for gay workers. Notably missing is India.
After a long-running and complicated tryst with legalisation, and in a big win for India’s LGBTQ community, the Supreme Court last year said that protection of sexual orientation is a fundamental right. While authorities in most countries have increased their support for the LGBTQ community in the recent past, not a word on the subject has comes from the PMO, despite the country’s prolific gay community that celebrated Gay Pride last month with the same gusto as the rest of the world.
Vocal condonation from the government and comprehensive steps for redressal in case of violations goes a long way in tearing down the toxic intolerant hegemony of heteronormativity and in broadening people’s minds. It comes as no surprise that Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, openly identifies as gay, as do the Irish and Serbian heads of state.
Laws banning workplace discrimination against the LGBTQ community should ideally be a part of every nation’s constitution. If all else fails, the UN can and should mandate the same for every member state. With the number of jobs lost and lives destroyed by ignorance, insolence and intolerance, it can no longer be an oversight.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius