By Shubham Choudhary, Rise Up Leader since 2017 and Founder and CEO of Safe Access in Delhi, India
In this series of stories celebrating 10 years of rising up for global impact, Rise Up Leaders discuss Rise Up’s role in their personal journeys as advocates for the rights of girls, youth, and women.
I am working to solve the lack of access to affirmative and non-judgemental healthcare services for the LGBTQ+ community in India. The discrimination, social stigma, and homophobia faced by the LGBTQ+ communities of India make them fearful of accessing healthcare, especially sexual, reproductive, and mental health services.
Before becoming a Rise Up Leader, I only had an idea. The idea developed into a plan during Rise Up’s Youth Champions Initiative. I got the necessary support, tools, and guidance to translate my idea into action. And what started as a project has become an organization.
My organization consults and sensitizes health service providers on the needs and challenges of the community. We build their awareness on how to deliver gender-responsive, culturally competent, and quality healthcare in a safe, non-discriminatory, non-judgmental environment. These sensitized health service providers are then listed on our web platform where the community can find and review them.
I was inspired to do this work because in India the LGBTQ+ community has unmet needs. The community has been historically marginalized by discriminatory laws and social stigma, which can lead to poor health outcomes. On September 6th, 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized same-sex acts, which had been criminalized for more than 150 years. However, Indian society is still far from equitable for the LGBTQ+ community. Most health service providers do not know the needs of the community. The medical schools do not equip them to serve the community. There is a significant focus on testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS, but issues related to mental health, other STDs/STIs, sexual and reproductive health, sex reassignment, and overall well-being are often neglected or not treated in a comprehensive manner.
Ours is a truly community-led effort, designed and operated by people of the community. We are working at the intersection of health and technology to enable equitable healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community. I will know I am successful when members of the LGBTQ+ community across India can easily access health service providers without the fear of discrimination or stigma. My hope for the future is to make this world truly inclusive and equitable for everyone.