In a country of 1.3 billion people, with vast heterogeneity in every aspect, where every identityis unique and attributed by a variety of factors, what exactly does it take to feel safe? The answer - inclusion. With a population so large, standing out from the horde seems like a prospective way of becoming a target, irrespective of the facets that make you different, be it the choices you make, the life you lead, or the way you think. For about 2.5 million Indians, it could be the manner in which they choose how to, and whom to love, that makes them potential prey to monstrosities of discrimination.
Targeted prejudice against homosexual people began in our country fairly after the arrival of the British, who deemed homosexual acts as unnatural and therefore, punishable. After decades of relentless struggle, extensive court proceedings and severe backlash, on the 6 September 2018, the colonial-era law was scrapped, much to the relief of people from the community, allies and activists. But even after the abolishment of highly biased and unfair code, the effects of the inequity remained, and the discriminatory stance in peoples’ minds continued to sabotage lives, as well as their livelihoods.
Homophobia takes its toll on individuals in more ways than imaginable. Mental health, emotional stability, self dignity are majorly affected, and their effects could sometimes be irreversible. What we may neglect to take into account is the fact that homophobia also has an economic cost associated to it. A case study done in India in 2014 by Dr. M.V. Lee Badgett, to understand the correlation between homophobia and its result on the country’s economy stated that the bigotry was responsible for affecting the GDP by about 0.1 to 1.7%. This shocking figure is due to the fewer earnings, and fewer job opportunities that gay folk are subjected too, which translates to the downfall of economic output.
Violence, harassment, family rejection, job loss, social exclusion are some of the horrors of homophobia. These, in turn, can construe to lesser education, lower productivity, lower earnings and lower labour force participation amongst those affected, which means that there is lesser money going towards the country’s GDP. Homophobia also reduces the number of working years of individuals, be it due to workplace harassment or stunted career growth, which results in people having fewer years to accumulate earnings.
Apart from its direct effect on occupational productivity, the stigma also has an immense impact on the health of individuals. Homophobia places a huge cost on society and has been linked to increased rates in smoking, alcohol use, depression, HIV/AIDS and attempted suicide rates among members of the LGBTQ community. According to a research paper from 2012, the average health cost of homophobia in India is a whopping $712 million, which is an irrecoverable blow to the economy.
Based on these findings, it can be stated quite clearly that the consequences of homophobia are not ones to be taken lightly. While the decriminalisation of homosexuality was a push in the right direction, there are still a lot of issues that need to be tackled. With passing time, the views on the LGBTQ community are changing positively, and slowly but surely, the acceptance of its members in society has accelerated. Professional companies are becoming more inclusive, and are aiming to provide for additional jobs for LGBTQ folk. Conversations on sexuality have sprung, and are propelling acceptance and affirmative action. Optimistically, there will come a time when sexuality is no longer a well kept secret, but rather a normalised aspect of an individual’s life.
This article is done in collaboration with RISE - India’s first LGBTI Job Fair taking place on 12 July 2019 in Bangalore. Prof. M.V. Lee Badgett, the author of ‘The Economic Cost of Homophobia’ will be a keynote speaker at the event. To find out more, check out RISE.
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