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Supply and Demand: India's Economic Tussle with LGBTQ+ Rights

The last decade has seen a period of the expansion of rights for members of the queer (LGBTQ+) community. Even so, many governmental agencies still impose restrictive regulations upon the LGBTQ+ population. To many proponents of LGBTQ+ equality, it is both appalling and surprising that India continues to permit a number of anti-queer practices, not to mention the numerous cases where the death of LGBTQ+ citizens is overlooked. In light of this, researchers have started to study the economic repercussions resulting from these human rights violations against sexual and gender minorities. Their work has revealed far-reaching findings regarding the correlation between LGBTQ+ discrimination and economic losses. Governmental agencies must consider this connection in their decisions over policies regarding the LGBTQ+ community.

Countries experience significant losses in gross domestic product (GDP) when they pass discriminatory laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community. As a matter of fact, “the [United States] economy could generate an extra $9 billion” if companies created more LGBTQ+-inclusive corporate cultures . Furthermore, LGBTQ+ discrimination can even hurt and regress economies in the case of India, whose output “is lower than it otherwise would be with the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ workers” (Badgett, “Economic Cost”). Much of this can be attributed to the loss in human capital and productivity that homophobic policies bring; when corporations act against a community, they alienate members of said community and, as such, lose valuable talent pools. To that end, when LGBTQ+ people are victimized by the governments, they are less apt to contribute economically because of social and political barriers, lowering productivity. This is especially seen in education discrimination when LGBTQ+ students perform worse and, as a result, are less well equipped to compete in the job market. According to Hickin’s analysis, for “each additional legal right for LGBTQ+ people,” corresponding economies “would generate a $320 increase in per capita GDP.” In light of this, to augment job competitiveness, increase human capital, and strengthen the economy, making strides toward a more inclusive environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community seems to be a clear solution.

States lose the interest of prospective modern corporations when they deny human rights to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Harvard Business Review journalist Jessica Shortall spotlights that “nearly 50% of...meeting planners said they would avoid planning events in states that pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.” Added to this, “more companies are speaking up on public policy impacting the LGBTQ+ community...putting their brands and political relationships on the line” (Shortall). In an increasingly globalized and interconnected society, corporations and businesses tend to transcend borders; coupled with this trend is the tendency for modern companies to take liberal stances on sociopolitical issues. States often compete to gain the attention and investment of major corporations. However, when they have anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, they run the risk of losing the business of these companies. With this, they overlook thousands of possible jobs and significant reinvestment back into the state, putting those states at a disadvantage economically compared to more inclusive states.

In 2018, India struck down a British Raj-era civil code that criminalized gay sex. While there has been tremendous progress in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, many activists argue there is much work to be done. For example, there is no legal backing supporting marriage equality--let alone housing and workplace protections against discrimination. Social and religious pressures and continue to plague India’s LGBTQ+ community, often forcing them to stay closeted with their identity.

LGBTQ+ discrimination is a hindrance to economic prosperity for countries with its significant losses in gross domestic product and attractiveness to corporations. India fails to reach its full economic potential in that the exclusion of members of the LGBTQ+ community leads to worsened human capital; deficiencies in access to education and safe workplaces for LGBTQ+ people limit their ability to contribute economically, lowering productivity and output. Furthermore, multinational corporations tend to avoid regions that are unfavorable to LGBTQ+ people to safeguard the rights of their employees; thus, discriminatory policies tend to deprive the country of the investment and jobs that these companies bring. As the fight for LGBTQ+ rights rages throughout today’s world, India’s governmental agencies must heed the fact that there is a correlation between inclusion and financial strength, and opponents to LGBTQ+ equality must evaluate what is more vital: upholding hate or economic prosperity.


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