When the Supreme Court of India came to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and decriminalize homosexuality last year, it was widely viewed as a watershed moment – a crucial step towards freedom from discrimination and persecution in the world’s largest democracy.
In the wake of this landmark ruling, Bloomberg held its Equality Summit in Asia for the first time earlier this month. Held in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, the event amplified the role the business sector plays in advancing leadership and action around equality, diversity and inclusion. Our own Daniel Lee, Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation, spoke at the conference.
The decriminalization of section 377 served as a powerful backdrop to the Bloomberg Equality Summit panel. Titled “A New Era,” the discussion focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion and how to advance social change in an era of uncertainty. Daniel was joined on the panel by Pramesh Shahani, Founder of Godrej India Culture Lab and Sandra Nandeibam, a transgender model and activist.
“Ever since coming out at 20, which was one of the hardest things I’ve done, I told myself that I would commit my career to serving my community,” Daniel said. “I first landed a job as a program officer at a global LGBTQ human rights organization – and this gave me the opportunity to work with remarkable advocates in India who were striving to overturn Section 377.
“Almost two decades later, we are witnessing the dawn of a new era in India, with a groundswell of people coming out and taking powerful stands for dignity and justice,” Daniel added. “At Levi Strauss and Co., we honor this pioneering spirit. This not only inspires us but also motivates us to do more in India through the Levi Strauss Foundation.”
India is one of Levi Strauss & Co.’s fastest-growing consumer markets. It is also the birthplace of the Levi’s® “I Shape My World” campaign, which has evolved into a global initiative devoted to celebrating extraordinary women who are breaking rules, taking risks, and creating change in the world. This year, one of the stories featured in the campaign spotlighted Sonal Giani, a 31-year-old Indian woman who is one of the country’s most prominent LGBTQ+ activists.
“The heart of the Levi’s brand is authentic self-expression and our products have been a uniform of social progress. As a company, we have the responsibility to take a stand, put our values into action and pave the way for others to feel comfortable stepping out of what they’re known for and standing up for something bigger,” says Sanjeev Mohanty, Managing Director of South Asia and North Africa. “Whether it’s the Pride collection or the ‘I Shape My World’ campaign, we are so proud to provide a platform for marginalized communities to add their voice and make an impact.”
"I couldn't imagine a world where I could actually flourish"@LeviStraussFdn's Daniel Jae-Won Lee says it's good for business and society when LGBTQ+ people can feel safe at work #BloombergEquality pic.twitter.com/0NzBV5Hbdp
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) October 15, 2019