Building Safer Communities: Small Needs Assessment for LGBTQIA+ communities in India

India, with its diverse culture and rich heritage, is home to a vibrant LGBTQIA+ population. Through our experience in conducting trainings and research, The Bachchao Project realised that there was a lack of resources around digital security specific to this community in India. In an effort to gain insights into the needs and concerns of LGBTQIA+ individuals in India, and to gather information for further research, The Bachchao Project conducted a small-scale needs assessment study in 2022.
Methodology:
We contacted fifteen individuals from the queer and LGBTQIA+ community, who were frequent users of the internet and often social media. They either lived in urban areas, or in close proximity to urban areas. Final interviews were held with 10 participants, between January 2022 and March 2022.
The interviews were held over secure online channels, and prioritized the security of all participants (both in procedure and tool usage). For the final report, personas were created based on individual conversations. All identifiying information has been removed from these, and they were fictionalised in parts to ensure anonymity. The illustrations attached to the personas have also been randomized. All names in this project are fictionalised.
Key Findings and recommendations:
1. Need for community
A need that was echoed throughout the interviews undertaken was that of social understanding and community. Many participants spoke about how they first found gender and sexuality communities online, through forums and social media. This space can be very affirming and validating (especially for members who cannot be out to their immediate physical friends and family). However, sharing personal and private information freely online can have unintended consequences, even more so for children and teenagers.

Recommendation: Creating a toolkit for LGBTQIA+ and queer minors on how to interact safely with other members of the community.
This will include sections on how and when to post photos, what information is safe to share, and stories from other members of the
community on how they interacted online when younger.
2. Politicisation of the personal identity
LGBTQIA+ persons may find their personal identities becoming the subject of political debate even without actively participating in political discussion. This includes art and content about exploring one’s own gender and sexuality as well.

During interviews, we discovered that while only some participants were actively creating and posting content on social media, all were concerned about political scrutiny, and the subsequent potential consequences. This fear of surveillance resulted in a chilling effect on their online speech. Those who made content wanted information on how to continue doing so anonymously, others wanted to be able to respond to political actors online without facing targeted harassment for the same.
Recommendation: Organising a roundtable discussion about strategies to make and post content online in India. This could either be a single event, or a set of smaller events focusing on specific demographics of LGBTQIA+ and queer creators (example: female journalists, trans* activists)

A more comprehensive report on the study can be freely accessed hereBuilding Safer Communities

All text and images are available under the Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial -NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-SA-NC-ND 4.0) license unless stated otherwise.