Innovative Database to Help Users Locate LGBTQ+ Friendly Sexual Health, Mental Health and Legal Aid Service Providers Across India
Press Release – LOS ANGELES and KOLKATA, INDIA — June 29, 2018 — Grindr, the world’s largest queer mobile social network, today launched an innovative and one-of-a-kind health and legal services locator, in partnership with Indian gender and sexuality organization Varta Trust and Chennai-based not-for-profit Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India (SAATHII). The resource database is accessible to LGBTQ+ identifying individuals via the Grindr app, but also anyone regardless of sexual or gender identity seeking legal aid or health service providers across India via both the Varta Trust and Grindr websites. By identifying and featuring testing sites that are supportive of different sexual and gender expressions, Grindr for Equality aims to remove much of the stigma or fear around getting an HIV test.
“This is a historic partnership that will greatly enable and empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community in India to identify queer-friendly providers and receive the care and support they deserve,” said Jack Harrison-Quintana, VP of social impact and executive director of Grindr for Equality, a program within Grindr that focuses on promoting justice, health, and safety for Grindr’s 3.6 million global daily users and the worldwide LGBTQ+ community.
The queer-friendly online resource database and locator is an effort to address the numerous queries on health concerns and complaints of rights violations which the “Varta” webzine has been receiving from its readers since its start in 2013. Service providers included in the database have been validated as “queer-friendly” through a process of information referees, direct interfaces and detailed self-administered questionnaires where it has been determined the service provider has an understanding about gender, sexuality and diversity; is sensitive to concerns of the LGBTQ+ community around stigma, discrimination, violence, health and broader well-being; and possesses the skills to address the concerns of queer individuals.
“It may come as a surprise to some, but queer people in India still find it difficult to quickly locate health and legal services, including online. Added to that is the question of the service provider being queer sensitive. So, even now, if you’re queer and you want a reliable HIV test in India, you’d have to ask a doctor, someone in the know, or know what to search for online. This locator can help reduce these obstacles significantly,” said Pawan Dhall, a founder of Kolkata-based Varta Trust, who conceived of and developed the idea. “The locator could have an immediate impact on the sexual health of many people with an internet connection in India seeking an HIV testing location or other health and legal support.”
The spark to implement the online resource database came when Dhall and Harrison-Quintana met at the 2016 International Aids Conference in South Africa. “Pawan is a longtime activist focused on gender, sexuality and HIV advocacy in West Bengal and also nationally,” Harrison-Quintana said. “It was his brilliant idea to use the local resources of Varta Trust to locate testing centers throughout the country and build a comprehensive database. All of this fit so well into Grindr for Equality’s global mission that we jumped to support it.”
The database took a year to develop and currently lists LGBTQ+ friendly health and legal service providers in 30 towns and cities in 16 states, including Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. This number will continue to increase as the database is constantly being updated based on fresh data collection, validation and feedback from users. Individuals can also submit information about service providers currently not included in the database to be reviewed and validated if the provider meets the database’s queer-friendly criteria. The emphasis on inclusiveness means that the database attempts to provide information for LGBTQ+ people on a wide range of health and legal aid concerns, including issues specific to youth, women, transgender people, people with disabilities, people living with HIV and other queer individuals.
Grindr users in India will see localized ads and special notifications to drive awareness of the database’s existence. Database can be accessed via the Grindr app and website in the sexual health resource center and at the Varta Trust website http://www.vartagensex.org/hsearch.php.