Welcome to another session of CSR dialogues from TeamLease Education Foundation. When we speak about gender inclusion, corporates in India keep limiting gender inclusivity to males and females. However, gender inclusivity goes beyond just hiring more women or offering equal pay. It is about embracing the ideas and perspectives of all employees and recognising their contributions and efforts regardless of gender identity. To understand more about the gender spectrum, we invited Koyel Ghosh, Managing Trustee in Sappho For Equality for a one-on-one conversation with Joel Fernandez.
What is the difference between gender and gender identity?
When we talk about gender, people assume it is sex that is assigned to us at birth. That's how the medical fraternity marks and labels people. Gender has been made a social construct, leading a particular life according to the assigned genitals. But when a child grows, they have their gender expression and it has nothing to do with the sex assigned to them at birth. Sometimes a child is born female at birth, but inside they feel like a man or vice-versa. So that is when the category of transgender people is included within the gender spectrum. Hence, gender expression has nothing to do with sex, gender identity is something that develops naturally and is a very individual thing.
Sappho for Equality
Sappho is a Greek poet, who used to write about Love between same-sex people. And the ability to have equal understanding for everybody, life, and society where nobody's discriminated against, stigmatized, or, put down because of their gender identity or sexuality. So they have been working for the last 23 years to preach the same. The entire two decades of the work that they have done has been to resist the kind of discrimination faced by people from the GSM (gender sector minority) community. Koyel Ghosh further added, ‘If someone is facing discrimination at their educational institutions, we try to ensure that that kind of discrimination is stopped. We try to sensitize and create awareness in different schools through programs, telling them that gender is not just the binary of man and woman but there's a spectrum that everyone needs to respect. Anybody irrespective of gender or sexual identity cannot be ranked or bullied either by the students or by the teachers.’
Sensitization is extremely important because lack of awareness and lack of knowledge can lead to a lot of violence. Sappho is also working with the National Commission for Women closely to bring about the right changes in society. They're also working with NITI AYOG, trying to get the right kind of position for queer and trans individuals in society in terms of livelihood and scholarships.
We definitely need to address this issue as an individual and as corporates. But a lot has to be done on the foundation level. Just because maximum or majority of people in India today, practice heterosexuality does not mean that everybody is heterosexual. So, that patriarchal understanding needs to change and we can make a difference in that understanding.
Role of CSR
CSR, as a platform, can help the situation for the LGBTQ community by upskilling and providing them with livelihood opportunities. Because a lot of people are forced to leave education midway due to the violence and discrimination in schools and colleges. So a little bit of upskilling and hiring of queer trans individuals can help them live a dignified life. Right now Sappho is working with Tata Tata Steel and Godrej to hire veterans individuals and hopefully more and more organizations will come forward and take this as their responsibility to hire queer veterans, or individuals or provide them with the life that they deserve.
If you liked this conversation, watch the full video here.