The Indian Community Welfare Organisation is a Non Governmental Organisation working in various developmental projects for the past 18 years with special focus on multiple marginalized community in Chennai. ICWO has been actively working with female sex workers and their clients, transgender, MSM and homeless people, with the ultimate aim of empowering these stigmatized groups.
Issues of Lesbian Group
ICWO is seeking to address the issues which lesbian face within Chennai as patriarchal systems and moralistic attitudes towards lesbians within the city continue to prevent many from coming out. Such discriminatory and oppressive views can cause a variety of psychological and emotional issues for these concerned women.
ICWO began to address these issues in 2009 by initiating Chennai’s first lesbian helpline (04465515742) as a response after two married women committed suicide by setting themselves ablaze in North Chennai in May 2008, due to their relationship being prohibited. Despite the helpline being in place this lesbian remain somewhat invisible within the city. The organization estimates that there are many women within the city who are in a dilemma about accepting their sexual orientation, are fearful of others finding out about it, may be experiencing isolation or are facing harassment or discrimination for having spoken out about it.
Inauguration of Lesbian Helpline by ICWO
Support group for Lesbians
As a response to theses concerns ICWO has engaged in creating a peer led women’s LGBTQ support group, for those who identify as women who are interested on another women. The aim of the group is to create a safe social space where Lesbian can share their experiences and talk openly about their sexuality. Where they can meet other women who can offer support, help and to build a mutually supportive network.
On Friday the 10th of March the group held their third meeting within three months which consisted of twenty women who self define as lesbian, bisexual or transgender (female to male). The group identified from their experiences within Tamil Nadu that due to their sexual orientation some members face; rejection from friends and family members, discrimination within society and within the workplace, forced marriage, domestic violence, depression. Some felt isolated and alienated after coming out due to a lack of social networks. Members felt that there was an overall lack of understanding about lesbianism due to a lack of education and information.
They felt that LGBT organizations remain to focus on the needs of the MSM community, therefore request that they have their own women only space to express their own views, to ensure that their voice is heard and that their needs are met. It was decided that it is essential to ensure that support systems are put in place, by creating a peer led support group which will meet once every two months and will provide a congenial atmosphere to discuss concerned issues. They also aim to provide peer advocacy to ensure that women feel empowered to accept and express their identities fully and to reduce the marginalization and stigmatization which these women face within society. This showed a progress in LGBT human rights
ICWO is not only committed to raising awareness about LGBTQ women’s issues but also committed to addressing the issues identified by supporting the peer led support group which will meet periodically once every two months, but they are continuing to operate a lesbian helpline. In order to improve service provision for this marginalized community by December 2012 (1) engage in explorative research into the experiences of lesbians within Chennai (2) set up a panel of support including counselors, lawyers and LGBT activists (3) plan to hold workshops to identify the specific needs of this population. They are working on doing so by networking with similar groups and organizations within other cities and aim to create a women’s only LGBT drop in centre in ICWO premise.
Community Volunteer in response to lesbian helpline
Since there is no specific trained counselor to respond to the various queries, issues, doubts, concerns and misconceptions about lesbian, the support group has decided to volunteer as a counselor between 03.00pm to 05.30pm from 1st August 2012 on all weekdays Monday to Saturday. The counselor named Ms. Akrith will be attending the lesbian helpline calls and respond to it. The lesbian helpline number is 044-65515742.
Volunteers for Lesbian Helpline
Lesbian Helpline Weblinks