Members of the marginalised lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities living in the capital city of New Delhi will now find a safe haven, where they'll be provided with crisis management and counselling services.
The Humsafar Trust, one of India's oldest male health and LGBTQ organisations, has inaugurated its new centre in New Delhi. Humsafar's New Delhi office is supported by project CONNECT, whose focus is to build the capacities of LGBTQ organisations working in various parts of the country.
Established in Mumbai in 1994, the organisation is founded and chaired by Ashok Row Kavi, one of India's most prominent LGBTQ rights activists, a journalist who had come out publicly way back in 1984, at a time when there was no conversation or national-level movement for the human rights of LGBTQ persons.
On the inauguration of the new centre, Ashok said that it was a long-held dream to bring the organisation to New Delhi. He added,
"Humsafar Trust will bring our best practice services in counselling, crisis management, and community mobilisation to the LGBTQ communities in Delhi NCR and nearby areas. We also hope to network directly with the Parliament and the Union Government on important legislation regarding sexual minorities and their problems."
Humsafar's New Delhi office intends to offer a safer space for the LGBTQ community with a drop-in centre. It will host informative sessions on legal awareness, mental health, social entitlements, and coming out, among others, every Friday. It will offer counselling services provided by community counsellors. For any advance counselling support like mental health, it will have referrals to experts. Vivek Anand, the CEO of Humsafar Trust, said,
"LGBTQ persons in India generally live under double or triple stigma because of their sexuality, and tend to hide themselves due to societal and other pressures. This leads to many mental health issues concerning the community. Humsafar's LGBTQ centre in New Delhi hopes to provide not only a safer space for community members but also counselling and links with mental health professionals."
Humsafar Trust, which has been working since November 2016 to set up the space in the city, has already supported community initiatives in neighbouring regions — it supported the Chandigarh Queer Pride in March 2017 and is also supporting the Awadh Pride march that is scheduled to be held this month.
Humsafar Delhi will also act as secretariat to the integrated network of sexual minorities (INFOSEM), that has representation from more than 150 members, largely community-based organisations (CBOs) from all over India. Humsafar is also working on establishing India's first-ever National LGBTQ Resource Centre under project CONNECT. Ashok adds,
"Our vision was to provide every kind of community service and network with scores of other CBOs to influence our representatives in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The clarion call from Humsafar is that our idea of India is within our great Republic and builds upon the foundation laid by our Constitution. With that book in one hand and our rainbow umbrella in the other we shall safeguard and shelter our LGBTQ people at every cost."