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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: The Indian Perspective



Introduction :

The World around us is diverse. It provides space for myriad of inhabitants who belong to various ethnic groups, around varied geographical situations. There are wide and varied opportunities to which humans respond in various ways. Thus, the Society is not homogenous in its socio-cultural-political and economical attributes. Hence, it is pertinent that this diversity is fairly and justly included in pursuit of development of mankind and the civilization.


Thus, of late Social Engineers have devolved a concept of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) as a part of the organizational policy of good governance and also incorporate the principles in social reforms. It started as a humble demand in the USA in the 1960s, with the objective of recognition of civil rights. The continued struggle culminated into the evolution of the concept of Diversity and Inclusion in the 1990s. However, the focus on governance and particularly within the framework of Environment, Social and Governance during the period of 2000s veered the concept towards Equity. Thus, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion became a part of organizations’ ESG Policies. However, such principles continued to be imbibed in various endeavours towards creating a harmonious socio-cultural environment also.


Meaning and Interpretation:


The concept comprises three parts:

Diversity: This connotes differences and their representation. There are different kinds of people from varied background. Generally, the term is construed in the parlance of race and ethnicity, age, gender, religion and faith, language, life experiences, marital status, economic status, sexual orientation and so on.


Various Sociologists and Social Engineers have classified 4 types of Diversities as :

  • Internal that refers to any trait of characteristic that a person is born with i.e race,age, ethnicity, nationality sexual orientation etc

  • External that are influences by surroundings i.eeducational, personal interests, religious belief and faith, geographical location,

  • Organizational i.e place of work, pay status, management status etc

  • World View. This encompasses a person’s perception and conceptualization of the world differently depending upon his life experiences, political beliefs, moral compass, outlook in life (Ref: Article on Workplace Diversity by Impactly.com)

Equity: It aims at ensuring justice, equable distribution of and access to resources, and opportunity. It aims at removing the obstacles in optimum participation of people.


Inclusion: It aims at creating an environment of dignity, support and collaboration. It inculcates a sense of belongingness and enhances productivity. It invites people to contribute and participate. It includes the importanceof how a welcoming environment is created, the willingness and participation of the people towards creating such an environment. It encompasses the wants and desires of the people. It also assesses how individuals conduct among themselves , build their relationships. It further signifies the availability, distribution and utilization of resources and opportunities.


The aspect of Inclusion entails assimilation and integration of various groups of people from diverse environment and attributes.


Legislative and Judicial Approach in India:

The Constitutional Provisions enumerated in Articles, 14, 15, 16, 19 and 21 ensure that no person is discriminated against on the grounds of their diversities. It is also ensured that there is fairness in access and availabilities of opportunities. The State is duty bound to act upon equity towards the target groups. Article 21 being the Power House of the Constitution of India ensures that people of various and diverse groups live a life of dignity and inclusion.


Noteworthy, caste is an important element of Diversity and plays a significant role in determining Equity and Inclusion in India. Thus, the 1st (1951), and 93rd (2006) Constitutional Amendments that inserted Articles 15 (4) and 15 (5) respectively, Articles 39A, 338, 338A, 338B ensure Diversity, equity and Inclusion of castes in India by providing for caste based reservations, free legal aid to economically backward classes and creation of National Commission for Scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes for redressal of their grievances .


Various Legislations :

The Governments in India have been striving emphasize upon the supporting the efforts towards Inclusion by way of enacting laws and ensuring their compliance.

Thus, Equity and Inclusion are ensured under the various Labour Laws guaranteeing organizational support during maternity (The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961). various Labour Laws ( The Factories Act, 1948, The Shops and Establishment Act, 1948) the provisions whereof ensure the safe working environment not only in the organization but also while commuting before and after office hours.


The Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 ensures the right to enter into marital relationships. Besides, the recent legislations, namely, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 ensures that women employees are not discriminated against and subjected to any kind of fear or oppression.


The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 ensures that people do not face hindrances merely due to the physical abilities. The Diversity in terms of caste is safeguarded under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.


In addition, any act towards victimization of a person due to his caste, religion, gender, and religious faith have been made a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code 1860. The Judiciaryhas had a significant role to play in ensuring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The judgments of Air India vs NergeshMeerza, 1982 (1) SCR 438; 1981(4) SCC 335, ensured that there were no restrictions on women for choosing motherhood while in service.


Sexual orientation was duly protected by decriminalizing section 377 of the IPC. The decision by the Supreme Court of India in Navtez Singh Johar vs Union of India, 2018 (1) SCC 791 (FB), is noteworthy in this regard. Moreover, the decision of the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India, 2014 (5) SCC 438,ensured a life of dignity to the transgenders by not only recognizing them as the Third Genders but also securing them the right to choice of being addressed as HE or SHE.


The Supreme Court of India has also protected the ideologies and choices of women towards single motherhood, of couples towards marriage by protecting againstharassmentin live-in relationships.


Conclusion:

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different and benefiting from such differences. It is imperative that balanced group of people is maintained, people are made aware of their rights and duties by various modes of trainings and dissemination of information, sensitization programmes. It makes workplace and informal surroundings healthy, creative and innovative.


My take: There are various initiatives from the Government, NGOs and other social groups towards encouraging and felicitating the diverse groups of people. Many Laws are enacted, or programmes and seminars are conducted with the theme of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. However, unless inclusion of diverse groups of people is facilitated by apocalyptic social change steered by conscious transmutation of folkways, mores and ethos, the concept of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as means of social engineering has a long battle ahead.

 

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