Experiences of LGBTIQA+ individuals across India indicate that access to stigma-free health care remains a profound barrier for our communities. Health care providers harbour many of the same heteronormative and patriarchal mindsets as the rest of mainstream society. Such prejudices are compounded by antiquated medical curricula that have not kept up with advances in scientific understanding of gender and sexuality diversity and differences in sexual development. Marriage is seen as universal ‘cure’ for all ills, and many an LGBTIQA+ person is encouraged/coerced by the powerful family-healthcare nexus to get married, to bring them back to the straight-narrow-binary-cisgender path.
Access to healthcare is particularly difficult for transgender individuals seeking gender-affirming interventions across psychiatry, endocrinology and surgery domains: a problem rooted in transphobia, ignorance on the part of the providers concerning the difference between intersex and transgender issues, and lack of opportunities for clinical training. Intersex individuals face medical interventions as infants, despite growing consensus that “correcting” ambiguous genitalia to align anatomy with gender is a decision best left to the individuals and their gender self-determination, when there are no life-threatening physiological implications of delaying the procedures. Children whose gender expression doesn’t conform to gender/sex assigned at birth are subjected to attempts by pediatricians and mental health professionals to
Towards inclusive healthcare outcomes, SAATHII and our partners work to:
i. Compile case studies of individuals who have faced ignorance, stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings on account of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and/or sex characteristics.
ii. Analyse textbooks (both MBBS and MD) commonly prescribed by medical teaching institutions in India from the perspective of absences, misrepresentations and inaccurate information pertaining to SOGIESC.
iii. Advocate with healthcare institutions and providers, both public and private, for inclusive and stigma-free care and treatment to LGBTIQA+ individuals, and for non-discriminatory policies.
iv. Develop and pilot LGBTIQA+-relevant modules for undergraduate-postgraduate-continuing medical education and for training of primary care providers.
v. Develop databases of LGBTIQA+ inclusive healthcare providers and institutions.
Community partners involved in various components of this effort include Vikalp (Women’s Group) in Vadodara, Nirangal-SIAAP and Sahodaran in Chennai, Varta Trust in Kolkata, AMANA and ETA in Imphal, and Queerala in Kochi. Dr. Sameera Jahagirdar, MD, from the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, Pondicherry, and our in-house clinicians and public health professionals provide technical support to some of our initiatives. We also work with government health departments at regional, state and district levels, professional medical associations such as state chapters of the Indian Psychiatric Society, and private providers and facilities.
To view case studies relating to healthcare, view all posts at https://lgbtiqainclusionindia.wordpress.com/tag/health/