May 17th is IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia); individuals & organizations around the world celebrate the removal of homosexuality in the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 17th, 1990. This event, first launched in Canada with the Fondation Émergence, has since spread to numerous other countries (more than 50 are participating this year) with the IDAHO Committee.

Beyond the symbolic aspect it shares with similar events (such as International Women’s Day, and World AIDS Day) this day serves as creating awareness about equal rights for the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community, as well as the discrimination the community still faces today around the world.

A simple goal: equal rights for everyone, everywhere

Equal rights are still not a given in most countries. Large corporations often implement global equal rights policies, even if local laws do not mandate it yet. At Alcatel-Lucent, efforts have been made to achieve such equality; for instance, the works council in France recognizes employees’ dependents, whether they are spouses or partners, or ‘non-biological’ children.
Furthermore, civil unions (that remain the only legal form of same-sex union today in France) provide the same benefits as marriage in terms of leave entitlement (five extra days) — whereas the local law doesn’t require this. Similarly, the health coverage includes dependents from a civil union.

In several transgender cases, Alcatel-Lucent supported employees during their transition, and helped amend payslips in order for their new identity to be recognized in court.
More recently, Alcatel-Lucent France opened parental leave to same-sex couples, benefiting the partner of a new mother in the event of a medically assisted conception. While beneficiaries of this policy may be few and far between, but it is worth highlighting this effort.

Looking beyond French borders, similar policies are implemented to ensure equal rights amongst Alcatel-Lucent employees: support to the partner’s relocation for Long Term International Assignments (as many countries do not recognize same-sex unions and therefore do not grant dependent visas), and inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the anti-discrimination policies that apply worldwide.
Alcatel-Lucent takes action to eliminate any form of distinction or discrimination that are related to sexual orientation.

Discrimination is still commonplace (especially at work), even in ‘developed’ countries

It is worth highlighting a significant disparity between the various regions. In too many countries, individuals can be sentenced to jail (and even death in seven countries) just because they are GLBT. In France, the situation is quite different (thankfully) and the last police files tracking gay individuals were destroyed 30 years ago.

In Alcatel-Lucent France, even though there can be a certain ‘clumsiness’ in discussions about this topic, it would appear there has been no discrimination related to sexual orientation or gender identity — and this is great. This may also come from the fact that often, victims of such harassment or discrimination do not dare to speak up as they fear the investigation may cause more problems or may be too ‘out in the open’.
To put things back into perspective, it is interesting to note that for several years now the annual report on homophobia in France (published by the SOS Homophobie advocacy group, and based on phone calls from victims) shows the workplace is one of the first location of discrimination.

EQUAL! – a support and educational group, open to all Alcatel-Lucent employees (and retirees)

In order to help people who need it, and also to make the workplace more inclusive, a group of Alcatel-Lucent employees support educational and awareness events on GLBT topics within EQUAL!. Some of these events are planned every year in June, for the GLBT Awareness Month. This year, we are thrilled to welcome Amnesty International and SOS Homophobie on June 7th at 1pm in the Salle Polyvalente in Velizy, to explore the two topics discussed above.

To get to know what EQUAL! does, what events are organized, or even just to educate yourself on GLBT Diversity topics, you can browse this site or contact one of the EQUAL! members whose contact details are listed on the website.