A safe space for questions
An online locator for legal and medical aid for the LGBTQ+ community promises greater inclusivity
Varta Trust, a Kolkata-based non-profit that promotes dialogue on gender and sexuality through multilingual webzines, recently announced the launch of a curated database of resources for legal and medical aid for the LGBTQ+ community in India. Supported by Grindr for Equality, a social justice arm of the queer dating app, and SAATHII, which provides access to health, legal services and social protection to marginalized communities, the database is an important step towards making medical and legal care accessible to LGBTQ+ people.
Despite greater acceptance and openness in liberal urban circles, systemic attitudes are still transphobic and homophobic, says Pawan Dhall, founding trustee of the Varta Trust. Being blackmailed, denied medical attention in a safe environment and not having access to information and treatment for HIV are just some of the issues queer people face. Those who have not come out to their families often face a backlash if their doctor doesn’t respect confidentiality, for instance. Most queer people rely on personal networks or grey market services, and find themselves unmoored when they change cities or lose touch with support groups.
A permanent online database, where you simply enter the location and type of service for pointers to queer-friendly resources in your area, can be a lifesaver. At the moment, the directory (available at Vartagensex.org/reachout.php) has listings for over 100 medical and legal resources that are specifically inclusive and trained to handle queer issues. Varta initially reached out to its network of sister NGOs and individuals for recommendations and then verified each entry with the help of questionnaires, phone calls and site visits. It is inviting suggestions from users and will be adding more names.
Currently, the database has the maximum number of entries for West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu. “We are fairly confident of having a robust number of entries for states like Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana because we know the ecosystems exist. Northern states like UP, Haryana and Bihar are the biggest challenges—sadly because there just aren’t enough resources on the ground," says Dhall.
Grindr’s role will be to spread the word about the locator among users. “Each state in India will have multilingual ads, which will broadcast information related to service providers in that state," says Jack Harrison-Quintana, director, Grindr For Equality, on email. “Our broadcast messages pop up when users open Grindr, before they actually get to the main user interface. That puts the information front and centre so that even if a user doesn’t need to use it at that moment, they’ll know the tool is there."