Recent advances in the legal realities around the rights of gender and sexual minorities (GSM) in India, popularly known as LGBTIQA+ communities, have slowly started changing the queer landscape. These changes, however, are not yet reflected in how GSM individuals are perceived by the larger society – that their struggles in their daily lives and at an institutional level still continue, reflected in an acute lack of access to resources, especially financial resources. The COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent country-wide lockdown, and the current second-wave have exacerbated inequalities, socially and economically, and the lack of the scaffolding of a welfare state and rights-based state development paradigm, with the institutional infrastructure imbued in transformative justice, have altogether unsettled the lives of millions of transgender and economically underprivileged GSM individuals, including the migrant labourers from the community. Millions of them have been pushed into extreme poverty and their abilities to meet their basic needs, such as staving off hunger, are severely compromised.
This study (Project Reach OUT) will focus on two sets of activities addressing the needs of SGM communities in the Indian State of West Bengal. First, we will survey GSM community members across the three West Bengal districts of Hooghly, Kolkata, and Malda to conduct a livelihood mapping of skills, capacities, material and social resources, activities engaged in to earn a living, migration patterns, and barriers to sustainable development. Second, this project will engage with researchers, activists, and government officials to lay the foundation for a South Asian GSM rights research collective. Through a series of online participatory workshops and consultations, GSM rights activists and community researchers will strengthen their capacity for conceptualizing and implementing policy-oriented research, including research methodologies and documentation.