There's much wrong in the drama unfolding around the alleged union of two adult, consenting women in Bangalore — the continued persecution of the LGBTQ community, lack of awareness and sensitivity, and, worse, the inevitable fallout. Which in this case, includes one of the women allegedly losing her job after the company found out that she's a lesbian.
According to a Bangalore Mirror report on July 5, the two women, aged 21 and 25, had been living together since May this year. The report also claims that the couple later got married in a temple in Bangalore. According to the Mirror report, the two women had eloped from their homes due to fear of their families, which led to the 21-year-old's parents filing a missing persons report with the police.
But since the women are adults and have chosen to live with each other, the police could take no action. The parents then informed the police about their supposed wedding and sexual relationship. Draconian as it is, even though Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises 'unnatural' sex (which can literally mean anything other than penis-vaginal intercourse — including oral and anal sex, and even masturbation), the complainant has to be the victim and not an arbitrarily offended third party.
Once again, the police could not find any legal basis for the complaint, but offered to counsel the women as a placatory gesture. Several local Kannada TV news channels picked up the news and aired blurred photographs of the couple.
They said HR had decided that you leave the company since they know that it's me who is making rounds in the media from morning.
In its next report, dated June 6, Bangalore Mirror reported that due to TV channels indiscriminately airing blurred photos of the women, one of them was recognised by her employer and promptly fired. The report quoted the woman who was fired as saying, "The company people called me in the morning and asked me if I want to continue in the job or not. They asked me to talk to my parents and get back. I told them I'll talk to my lawyers and get back. When I called them back at 5:30 pm, they said HR had decided that you leave the company since they know that it's me who is making rounds in the media from morning. This is totally unfair." In the second report, the other woman also claims that they did not get married at all and are, in fact, relatives who live in the same house.
Did they think she'd quietly return home and continue living with them like they hadn't just tried to get her and her partner into serious trouble?
It is tragic that even today parents still consider homosexuality so shameful that they'd rather take legal action against their own children to teach them a lesson — even adult ones — than leave them alone to lead their lives the way they see fit. What exactly were the parents hoping to achieve with their legal stunts? Did they think their daughter would be scared into heterosexuality?
Did they think she'd quietly return home and continue living with them like they hadn't just tried to get her and her partner into serious trouble? I can only imagine that their anger over their daughter openly admitting to being a lesbian was greater than any guilt they may have felt for emotionally scarring their own child, or the risk of permanent estrangement.
Cases like these are proof that our society is still staggeringly heteronormative in its outlook.
If it wasn't so frustrating, it would be comic that the police's solution to an invalid complaint was to counsel the aggrieved parties. While it is a sign of progress that the police would consider therapy a helpful option to help reconcile families, sometimes, good intentions without adequate knowledge can backfire badly. Cases like these are proof that our society is still staggeringly heteronormative in its outlook. Homosexuality is not something that can be wished or talked away, and if our police officers haven't even been sensitised that much, an alarming number of them will be predisposed to helping parents 'cure' their children. Faced with such a bias, which LGBTQ person will want to approach the police if they're being harassed?
What kind of HR policy allows managers to demand that their adult employee talk to their parents?!
It is unfathomable that even in this day and age there are educated people among us who would think nothing of firing an employee for her sexual orientation. Instead of offering support at a time when her privacy was violated and she was outed without her consent, they chose to act in such a grossly bigoted manner. What kind of HR policy allows managers to demand that their adult employee talk to their parents? While there is no specific law in India protecting employees from dismissal on the grounds of sexual orientation, Article 13 and 15 of the Indian Constitution are for the protection of fundamental rights and prevention of discrimination.
The company has responded saying the company has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and is looking into the matter.
Roomi Harish of the Alternative Law Forum told The News Minute, "We have spoken to the company and are initiating legal action for wrongful termination. We have already started a shaming campaign... We will not stop until the girl gets her job back and is also paid damages."
According to the report, the company has responded saying that it had a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and is looking into the matter. "We are a young, passionate organization committed to creating an inclusive workplace — and no discrimination will ever be tolerated. Please give us some time to find out all the facts of the matter. We are treating this with the utmost seriousness and will do all we can to set things right".
HuffPost has reached out to the company for a comment.