There has been progress when it comes to sex workers and the LGBT community in India. The change in times have also brought a shift in the thought process of communities and people – many people are now accepting of the people in the LGBT community. People are also starting to understand that basic human rights are for all, whether you are from the LGBT community or not. This change is a necessary one, especially in a society like India, and there are still a lot of people who are trying to catalyse this change. One of the ladies fighting for these basic fundamental rights is Shubha Chacko.
Shubha decided to get into this field about 17 years ago when one of her friends told her that he is gay. She realised that she was in her early 30s and didn’t know anyone who was gay or from the LGBT community, so she wanted to learn more about it. She said that there wasn’t much information out there about any of these things and she felt as if she needed to do something. So, she started asking questions about the topic of LGBT and started collecting resources for other people. Soon after, she got her first case, she said,
“It was a lesbian couple who had been facing violence at home, they desperately needed our help. We get cases like that even today.”
Shubha says that there still is discrimination against the LGBT community and sex workers. It is definitely better than what it was 17 years ago, but it is there. Children of sex workers get harassed, gay men are not accepted by their parents, trans people face violence from their partners. Shubha tells us that it is important to remember that even though the issues surrounding the LGBT and sex workers community is similar, the intensity of issues depends on a person’s economic, social, religious status. It depends from person to person, and people forget that it is not the same issue for all the people of the community.
Shubha heads The Solidarity Foundation in Bangalore. It was founded in 2013 to help sexual minorities in smaller towns. Shubha says,
“There are a lot of resources in the city, but what about the small towns? The stigma and discrimination is higher there, so we wanted to create an organisation that could support the communities in these small towns.”
The foundation works on two pillars. The first is to support grass-root level groups in small towns and the second is to work with corporates. Shubha says that the foundation is not a rehabilitation program, rather it aids sex workers in continuing their profession but also get their rights and the respect that any other profession would get.
The foundation also helps trans people to get jobs in corporate companies. They help them with soft-skill training and more, and also trains the employees of the corporate company to accept trans people and treat them with respect. Shubha adds, “A lot of trans people need the confidence to go out and get a job, so we help them with accepting themselves as they are and also making them believe that they can have a good job and be accepted in society. It is very important for them because most of them seek help when they are at a very low point in their lives.”
When we asked Shubha about her most rewarding work through her journey, she said, “It is always rewarding to see people from the LGBT and sex worker communities become leaders. They either run an organisation or have good jobs, or are working towards the causes that have affected them in the past.”
“It is good to see such positive energy and also see that they have moved on from the issues of the past and have become changed, positive people.”
The change in people’s attitudes is there, but it is slow. Shubha says that it was hard to even have a conversation about these topics 17 years ago, things are better now and a lot of people are open to talk and discuss issues surrounding sex workers and the LGBT community. She says that people’s attitudes are not always favourable, especially in India, but with the help of organisations like hers, the stigma is slowly fading away and surely there will be equal opportunities for all and that is the change all of us want to see.
Pic credits: Shubha Chacko