India welcomes changes to same-sex laws

India saw a monumental turnover of its discriminatory same–sex laws this September, making the country a more attractive destination for relocating LGBT employees. Rohit Kumar, co-founder and managing director of IKAN Relocations describes the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

India - Pride against Prejudice
Relocate Magazine Autumn Issue 2018
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine, sponsored by AKA.
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.

On 15 of August 1947, Indians experienced the greatest freedom a citizen can have, an independent nation. India won its freedom from a two hundred year British reign and became a harmonious country. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India followed by addressing the citizens of India with his famous speech – Tryst with Destiny. “To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.”Independent India survived the initial challenges and did well among the other fast-growing countries. The country continued to make remarkable advancements but it failed to address a vulnerable community which was subject to an anachronic law since the British era. The LGBT community, comprising of approximately 7%-8% of the total Indian population was liable to an inhuman law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC.) The law, until just now, criminalised gay sex by largely denying the LGBT community the right to sexuality, sexual orientation and choice of partner.

New laws for modern India

On 6 September 2018, a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra delivered the final verdict by partially striking down Section 377. He said, “Discrimination of any kind strikes at the very core of any democratic society.”The Supreme Court of India decided that the application of Section 377 to consensual homosexual sex between adults was unconstitutional, irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary. LGBT activists across the nation and all over the globe celebrated with joy and contentedness. Many waved rainbow flags and cut cakes by gathering together in offices, colleges and other public places to celebrate the Supreme Court’s verdict.The Supreme Court of India knowing of the forthcoming challenges, mandated the Indian government to create worldwide publicity of the judgement and train both government officials and police officers, bearing in mind the significance of the judgement.

But the LGBT community, citizens and visitors must be aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

Economic prospects The metamorphosis that India is going through will no doubt culminate in a gateway of new opportunities. The World Bank estimates that homophobia costs India a whopping 31 billion dollars a year. With homophobia often resulting in lower educational achievements, loss of labour and high healthcare costs among the LGBT community.While the constitutional morality is cleared legally, social morality among the people is just a step away. With sufficient training and awareness from the government, India should embrace the LGBT community with love and understanding, counteracting the homophobia. Furthermore, acceptance of the LGBT community will only enhance opportunities and overall growth of the Indian economy.
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In 2017, over 7,000 Indians pursued the US for asylum. Many of those were victims of homophobia. A number of Indian LGBT couples sought support from other nations to provide them with safe place to live, away from the incongruous political system of their home country.After the legislative changes, India’s LGBT community need not seek refuge elsewhere. Further down the line, India might also be able to provide political asylum to LGBT communities from other nations where gay sex is still considered a crime.
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Visa obstacles for same sex couples

Corporate giants across the globe are laying out their offices and manufacturing facilities in India drawn by its lively economy and foreign direct investment (FDI) schemes. Looking ahead, India will soon be a new desirable destination for global mobility specialists with assignees belonging to the LGBT community.In the past, same sex expat couples have had difficulties when trying to relocate their spouses to India, since same–sex marriages were not recognised, making their spouses ineligible to secure a usual dependant visa. Instead, spouses had to travel on a tourist visa with a shorter validity allowing them to reside for a limited period before exiting the country and applying again to re-enter India – a tedious, expensive and cumbersome process.
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The LGBT workforce

Silicon Valley employs a large number of LGBT personnel, with many CEO’s and top executives belonging to this category. And other countries like France, the UK and Germany, who are established business partners with India, have a considerable number of same–sex partners working in corporations.The new transformation in India could allow it to witness a greater section of the global workforce willing to take assignments in India. It is hoped that with the amendment to Section 377 of the IPC, the regime shall also extend recognition to same–sex married partners. This would allow coterminous multiple entry dependent visas and the same residential rights as married expat couple while working or accompanying as a dependant spouse in India.India has always been known to be a harmonious and diverse nation and culture. However, it is going to be a huge task to fight the prejudiced attitudes which have been hardwired into many minds for decades. To enable change, the Indian government will have to recognise same sex marriages and educate the younger generations.The Indian government may also have to create affirmative action plans to help the LGBT community progress economically and socially, encouraging the country and its people to eradicate discrimination with this way of thinking, India can truly become less of an individual democracy and more of a constitutional one.Information provided by IKAN Relocation Services.
Relocate Magazine Autumn Issue 2018
This article first appeared in the autumn 2018 issue of Relocate magazine.

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