Did you know that homosexuality is still considered a crime in more than a third of the world? According to the United Nations, around 80 countries “criminalize consensual, loving same-sex relationships” despite calls from the UN’s Human Rights Office to bring out equality for all.
The month of June is officially recognised as LGBT Pride month – first celebrated on June 28th, 1970 to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City (The Stonewall Inn was a popular gay bar that police tried to shut down due to homophobic prejudice), similar events soon spread to cities around the world and have been credited in bringing about significant change for LGBT rights.
Often just referred to as LGBT – standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, in recent years the acronym has been modified to include Queer or sometimes Intersex. Much has changed for the better in the years following the first gay Pride March but LGBTI people are still more likely to suffer mental health issues due to the discrimination they face in their everyday life – just for being who they are.
As national and international businesses, it’s no surprise that many airlines, especially in North America, have decided to embrace Pride and go the extra mile to celebrate the movement – and going a long way to improve equality for both their employees and customers.
Extra marks go to American Airlines, Avianca, Lufthansa and the Virgin Group airlines who are all members of the UN’s Standards of Conduct for Business programme – Part of the Free & Equal campaign which promotes LGBTI rights in business.
The idea is simple – governments alone can’t stop discrimination on their own but businesses can be agents of change, fostering diversity and promoting a “culture of respect and equality”.
While the Australian airline, Qantas isn’t currently one of the 70 businesses who are members of the programme, its chief executive, Alan Joyce who also happens to be openly homosexual has been a champion of diversity in business – he was also the man who admonished Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways when he made an apparently sexist comment at a recent industry event.
As well as treating employees with respect and preventing discrimination, businesses are encouraged to campaign for an end to human rights abuses in the countries that they operate.
To this end, some airlines including American Airlines, Delta, United and jetBlue in the United States, as well as Virgin Atlantic in the United Kingdom will be sponsoring various Pride marches due to take place this month. Qantas has been a longtime supporter of the Sydney Mardi Gras.
United Airlines has recently celebrated achieving a perfect 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and has been named one of the Best Places to work for LGBTQ Equality. jetBlue and Delta also scored a perfect 100% score.
These airlines might not be perfect (here’s looking at you United) but if they can do it, what’s stopping other airlines? Now’s the time for global carriers who serve, diverse, cosmopolitan communities to step up to the plate and do their part to promote equality.