Target: Family Health International 360 (FHI360)
Goal: Applaud move to provide anonymous assistance for issues faced by LGBT individuals in India
A few years ago the Delhi High Court repealed the section of Indian law that criminalized homosexuality. Since then, LGBT Indians have participated increasingly in open discussions about problems that uniquely or predominately affect the LGBT community – such as the spread of HIV/AIDS – but this conversation has really only begun in the metropolitan areas. That’s why Family Health International 360 (FHI360) is partnering with the government’s Department of AIDS Control, as well as fellow NGO PATH and the Canadian International Development Agency, to provide essential services for those who feel they have no voice due to social pressures.
FHI360 is conducting a research study on the effectiveness of outreach that encourages HIV/AIDS awareness and protection especially for men who have sex with men (MSM). As part of this initiative, they recently introduced the Saahay Project, a 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1800-2000-113 that will provide counseling and information on sexually transmitted infections as well as psychosocial and legal help.
According to DNA India, Dr. Ashok Agarwal, the director of the project, assured the LGBT community that “We’ve customised the helpline to ensure caller confidentiality and identity, a prime concern among the hard-to-reach population, which we aim to reach out to. These include non-recording of call and non-identification of caller number to protect caller identity. We will not ask personal identifiers, such as name, address and phone number either.” Community organizations in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, and Maharashtra are coordinating the helpline currently, but FHI360 plans to bring the project to the rest of the country in time. Gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi commented, ““In smaller towns and cities, the community still remains invisible. Forced marriages with members of the opposite sex and transgender discrimination is rampant. We hope to address this.” This groundbreaking project will allow LGBT Indians who feel they cannot come out publicly to access the health and safety information and services that they need, without having to subject themselves to social stigma or exclusion by the government.
By signing this petition, you are thanking FHI360 and their collaborators for bringing this important aid to an LGBT community that is trying to break its silence. You are encouraging them to expand their work throughout the country, to provide vital services to people who are discriminated against daily and who have long had to live with little access to health and safety information because of that stigma.
Dear Dr. Ashok Agarwal and FHI360 India,
I am extremely excited abotu the Saahay Project currently being implemented in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, and Maharashtra, to provide vital services to the LGBT community of India. LGBT individuals have too long suffered under the weight of stigma in a myriad of ways, from daily discrimination to lack of access to appropriate health care, sexual safety information, and counseling. This anonymous helpline is a fantastic step in the direction of equality and justice.
Thank you for working diligently to provide a missing but necessary service to LGBT Indians, who in the wake of the decriminalization of homosexuality are still struggling to find their voices amid the noise of social pressures. Thank you for advocating for the rights of LGBT individuals to health care and sexual education, not just in the urban centers but also in the rural areas, where the weight of discrimination is much heavier. I encourage you and your collaborators to expand this project throughout the country as soon as possible.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ludovic Bertron via Flickr