Representatives from tech companies IBM, Symantec and Thoughtworks took part in yesterday’s Pune Pride walk.
Their participation at the event is significant given that same-sex sexual activity in India is illegal due to Section 377 of India’s Penal Code.
Section 377 was suspended in 2009 but re-introduced in 2013: a move that local LGBTI activists believe has made big corporations more wary of speaking out in support of LGBTI rights in the country. This is despite the fact that the same corporations are a regular presence at Pride events in the US and Europe.
Yesterday’s Pune Pride walk, the sixth annual walk to take place in India’s ninth most populated city, was organized by local LGBTI-rights organization Sampathik Trust. This year’s theme was ‘LGBTI inclusivity in the workplace’.
Sampathik’s President, Bindumadhav Khire, told GSN last week that the theme was chosen to highlight the fact that so many gay, transgender and intersex people feel unable to come out at work.
‘I would like more corporations to be open about their LGBT inclusivity.’
Yesterday’s event began at 10.30am in Sambhaji Park (J.M. Road) and attracted around 200 walkers, despite a rainstorm which delayed the arrival of some people traveling from further afield.
Dwight Cook, a representative of Symantec, told the Hindustan Times, ‘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.’
Chirag Doshi, a representative of ThoughtWorks, attended the march with his two young daughters, aged two and seven. He told Pune 365 the reason why: ‘I want my kids to learn and be active as they grow up.
‘I know right now they may not understand what all of this is about. But as they get older, I don’t want them to be cooped in their own life. I will be so happy to answer their questions once they get curious about things like this.’
Vaishali Gunakikar of IBM told HT, ‘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.’
Many tech companies have offices, factories and call centers based in India. This is not the first time IBM has promoted its approach to diversity and inclusion. In February, it hosted an LGBT Executive Forum in Bangalore to discuss issues around LGBT inclusion in the workplace.
In an email to GSN, Khine said that he’d been happy to see the corporates represented for the first time: ‘I am very happy to see this turnout and I will try to push other corporates next year based to attend.
‘It started raining half way through but we all enjoyed the rainy pride! It didn’t spoil the event.’