On Sec 377 verdict anniversary, Axis Bank announces LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies

On Sec 377 verdict anniversary, Axis Bank announces LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies
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September 6, 2021 marked three years since Supreme Court’s historic verdict decriminalising homosexuality in India by reading down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Marking the occasion, Axis Bank announced a slew of LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies for employees and customers. Calling the initiative, #ComeAsYouAre, the bank introduced “a charter of policies and practices that embrace diversity, equity and inclusion within the organisation and for its customers.”

Under the new policies, which comes into effect from September 2021, LGBTQIA+ employees can now list their partners for Mediclaim benefits, dress as per their self-identified gender and use a restroom of their choice, and can avail a redressal process under the bank’s diversity, equity and inclusion policy as well as its human rights policy.

Customers from the queer community, meanwhile, can open a joint savings account or a term deposit account with a same-sex partner, and can make them a nominee in their savings as well as term deposit account. Customers who are genderfluid, non-binary or transgender can also add ‘Mx’ to their title in their savings or term deposit accounts.

“At Axis, we have put our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion that respects and recognises the importance of distinctive life journeys and several identities that extend beyond the paradigms of gender. This for us is as much about the invisible markers as it is about the visible ones,” said Rajesh Dahiya, Executive Director, Axis Bank. “Our Bank’s wider ESG aligned commitments, the ‘diversity & inclusion’ agenda has been a strategic focus. Towards that our work internally focuses on creating equitable processes and policies that allow us to create space for everyone to thrive. We welcome you to join us in this journey as change makers. ‘ComeAsYouAre’ as we are ‘DilSeOpen,’” he added.

An investigation by Moneycontrol found that queer persons still face hurdles when it comes to accessing financial services. For one, most banks still only recognise male and female as genders, and a gazette notification would be required if you wanted to change your name and sex on bank documents. While credit and debit cards do recognise a ‘third gender, an add-on card facility is not available to queer couples as only a spouse, parent, sibling or child can is eligible for this, and same-sex marriage is not legal in India.

While several companies like Accenture, IBM, SAP Labs and others have introduced LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies, people have pointed out that cultural acceptance is still lacking, and as a consequence many policies remain largely on paper, Economic Times reported.

On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court read down section 377, an archaic law, and pronounced it unconstitutional. A five-judge bench gave the verdict against the section which criminalised “unnatural sex” between consenting adults and has been used to victimise the LGBTQIA+ community. Justice Indu Malhotra, who was part of the bench, had said, “History owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries. The members of this community were compelled to live a life full of fear of reprisal and persecution. This was on account of the ignorance of the majority to recognise that homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range of human sexuality.”

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