While growing up in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, Abhishek Azad knew very little about homosexuality, and absolutely nothing about section 377 and equal rights. Though cities were racing ahead in awareness and acceptance, in small towns like his homosexuality was still out of conversations.
However, when a manager he worked under at a steel firm came out to him, he knew it was about time he educated himself. “I rushed home earlier than usual that day and delved into the available information on the internet. By evening, I knew I would be supporting him,” says Azad, 25, a business analyst with Accenture, Mumbai. “His sexuality didn’t make him any different,” he quickly adds.
Minutes into our conversation, Azad fondly remembers this play he and his group of thespians had performed for LGBT awareness in Dhanbad. The same town that hardly spoke about LGBTs applauded the group’s play, paving the way for Azad to boldly support the community.
The Card of Pride
At his new workplace in Mumbai, Azad says, this colourful, flashy card that some colleagues attached to their identity cards fascinated him. Upon inquiring he learnt that it was the Ally card. “I wanted to openly support more like my manager. Back home it wasn’t possible, but here there was an opportunity right in front of me,” he says.
Accenture is one of the companies that have been strong supporters of LGBT rights. Azad says that besides all employees receiving mailers, the Ally group frequently organizes flash mobs, pride walks and skits to sensitize employees and bring about awareness in the company. At Accenture, he says he has found a platform to proudly extend his support for LGBT rights.
The emphasis on the inclusiveness at workplaces has intensified of late. In June this year, six companies joined the Pune Pride March that had inclusiveness as its theme. However, in July this year, inclusiveness took the centre stage as a Bangalore firm sacked a female employee reportedly for being a lesbian, and a man in England was instructed by his bosses to not apply makeup at work.
Azad says an inclusive workplace plays a great role for not only the members of the community but everyone at large. “People need to feel comfortable and accepted at their workplaces, irrespective of their identity or sexuality, to be able to give their best,” he says, while adding that it contributes to creating a positive work environment.
Calling inclusiveness “a big step in the forward direction,” he highlights, “Policies to ensure inclusiveness are equally important for breaking the stereotypical bubbles some are into.” “An accepting and tolerant environment is what we need at the moment. Inclusiveness ensures people are aware that being different is absolutely fine and that one should have an open heart for all,” he says as he signs off.