Aims and objectives
1. Providing Professional Workshops concerning Sexual/Emotional Health and Empowerment
Like the Dalit women Sambhali Trust already helps, any unrepresented minority group often has side effects of feeling undervalued or unwanted, and banished from society. Not only do we plan to get professionals such as doctors and specialists advising them on contraception and why and how to prevent HIV/AIDS spreading, but our goal is also to make this group feel as empowered as our women do now. Once under the protection of Sambhali, we hope that in a society where their sexual preference has tainted the way in which the world sees them, they can finally start accepting and being proud of who they are. To achieve this, psychological help for the homosexuals and their respected families should be available, in a confidential setting. We would like to offer group therapy as well as one-on-one counseling for those who require it.
Although the psychological help is mainly concerned with sexual minorities, our heterosexual volunteers will gain from project Aasha’s workshops by having a comfortable environment to sit and learn about/question their sexual health.
2. Starting a Drop-in Centre, and Integrating LGBTQ participants with the Community
As we have already started a Sambhali family, we can start by getting this group accepting by other groups of women/children already affiliated with Sambhali Trust. As a respected NGO in the area, we’re hoping that the stigma associated with LGBTQ groups can be alleviated somewhat, at least within Sambhali walls, but also in the immediate area. One of the ways we hope that we can integrate the homosexuals with heterosexuals in the area is by creating a drop-in centre, where anyone can come for health concerns, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. This centre could give free advice and contraception, with the hopes that we can try and prevent the spread of STI/HIV/AIDS to anyone in Sambhali. We hope in this way, we can stop homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, and contraception being such taboo topics, and at least have a place where people can discuss this in more depth if they so desire.
3. Providing a Safe Environment for Sexual Minorities
A safe environment for the group to learn and be able to talk is vital if we want the participants to feel comfortable and to feel able to confide in us with any sexual concerns they might have. To begin with, this is merely a classroom in one of our Empowerment Centres, and so has been of no extra cost to us, but has mean that our haven to our women and children has also been a haven to another group of people.
It is probable that to create an environment in which they feel comfortable, weekly meetings or discussions could take place, so that the space is used regularly. This gives us a chance to include not only sex education on STIs and STDs, but also talks discussions on empowerment, self-esteem and self-worth, similar to what we strive to improve with the women in Sambhali. In these first months with LGBTQ partipicants, we can also include therapists and other professionals coming and talking to the participants about the issues they and their families must face with them being in a sexual minority.
4. Reducing Prevalence and Incidents of STIs/HIV/AIDS in target groups
7.41% of the cases of HIV/AIDS in India are from homosexual relationships*; the highest percentage in any other minority group. Whether this is due to the secrecy and taboo of homosexual relationships, or the lack of knowledge of contraception/lack of accessibility of condoms, or even lack of knowledge of how and why HIV/AIDS is spreading, with sexual education talks and discussions, distribution of quality condoms and an environment that homosexuals feel safe to ask questions, it is our hope that we can prevent HIV/AIDS spreading with any of the people we talk to. Our aim is to prevent HIV/AIDS, not merely treat it. As there are extra precautions men in homosexual relationships should take to prevent HIV/AIDS, with there being a stronger chance of tearing and blood/fluid transferal during intercourse, it is our hope that we can provide all relevant information to take away as much risk of contracting STIs/HIV/AIDS as possible.
In the future it is our hope, when we expand, to reach out to other high risk groups such as local prostitutes and truck drivers as they are at a higher risk of contracting and spreading this disease.
5. Spreading Awareness and Knowledge of STIs/HIV/AIDS
In Indian culture, it is uncommon, and disapproved of, if you have any sexual relations before or other than after your wedding with your spouse. As such, the spread of STIs and STDs would normally be a sign of infidelity. The taboo created around them now has only been fuelled by the spread of AIDS in sexual minorities and sex workers- minorities who are already banished from their society and now have deadly diseases passing amongst each other.
Unfortunately, as STIs/STDs are also associated with homosexuality, infidelity and sex workers, there is not much sexual education and knowledge offered or provided by the government easily to anyone in the community. It is Sambhali’s wish to provide free sexual education talks, and a chance for MSM participants to ask questions and find out about sexual infections and diseases and, more importantly, how to prevent them.
*statistic supplied by Doctors at NACO, MDM Hospital, Jodhpur
STI - sexually transmitted infections
STD - sexually transmitted diseases
HIV - human immunodeficiency virus
AIDS - acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
MSM - men having sex with men - see further info >>>
LGBTQ - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning
NGO - non-governmental organization