This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shambhavi Saxena. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Delhi Counselling Centre Hosts Unique Workshop On Mental Health Care For Queer People

More from Shambhavi Saxena

On Sunday, November 6, the Karma Centre for Counselling and Wellbeing in Vasant Vihar was host to a unique workshop on queerness and mental health.

The day long workshop drew a small but enthusiastic group of participants from various fields, and aimed at building much-needed awareness around identities that fall under the umbrella term “LGBTQIA+”.

Organized by counselling psychologist Manavi Khurana and clinical psychologist Dr Rajat Thukral, the workshop included a component on ally-building. It also took a detailed look at the oft-erased asexuality spectrum. Further, it had a very sex-positive approach, by including information on safer sex options that persons of any gender or orientation ought to know about.

A lot of research and reflection went into preparing the workshop. “We had to think about what terms we were using, what information to put in onto the slides, what not to put in,” says Thukral. “I was thinking about how somebody who identifies as LGBTQIA+ would perceive some of the materials we put together.”

When asked about why they chose to organize the workshop, it is this same reflective process that Thukral points to. “There is a lack of education and training on working with LGBTQIA+ individuals,” she says. “We want to help them feel comfortable talking about difference. We want them to recognize their own biases, and reevaluate them in a safe, non-judgemental environment.

But it was also the growing conversation around queerness, despite Section 377, that drove the workshop. “Yes it’s a risky proposition, but I wanted to do it,” says Khurana. “It had to be done. A lot of the clients or the people we interact with, we saw that it was something they were curious about. They had either no knowledge or little knowledge about it. And little knowledge is dangerous, so we wanted to bridge that gap.”

The Karma Centre is one of the few queer-friendly counselling centres in the capital, and it means a great deal that it’s exploring the intersection of mental health care and LGBTQIA+ identities. However, there are several challenges to doing this. For one thing, having laws like Section 377 means there are hardly any general statistics about the LGBTQIA+ populations in the first place, so psychological research on those populations is practically non-existent. Most of the researches available to Thukral and Khurana were American, but even those had several issues.

While references like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been revised to declassify homosexuality as an illness, there are still limitations.

Thukral shares an example of a trans client she was seeing in the US: “As a mental health clinician, when we do assessments with clients, we refer to these manuals which have standardized norms, which are for ‘males’ and ‘females.’ So if I have a trans person in my office and I’m testing that person, there’s no standardized norm for that population! That’s where we are right now!

Yet it is these very issues that make these efforts that much more significant. The field has had a history of pathologizing queerness. Even today many queer individuals are taken to doctors to be fixed. Luckily, that’s changing.

Suppose I have a client from the LGBTQIA community,” says Khurana, “We have to know what they’re going through, how they’re struggles are different from ours. Even knowing how they have sex is important. We can’t be completely ignorant about that. This is why we need the workshop.

When asked if they would run this workshop in schools and colleges, Khurana says she’s open to it, but expects a fair bit of oppositions. She said even university students aren’t allowed to research on sex. “My cousin wanted to do a paper on LGBTQIA mental health and well-being in India, and she was told ‘You can’t choose something controversial.’

Thukral too notes an unfortunate tendency in universities, where discussions about sensitive subjects like safe sex, sexuality, and mental health become questionable. Further, parents would object to it, and the law isn’t helping any either: “Section 377 prohibits talking about sexuality, and there’s an outright rejection of homosexual relationships. So talking about that in schools and colleges is difficult.”

But a workshop that focuses on building a responsive and supportive infrastructure is of tremendous importance. Especially, given how, as I learnt from the organisers, the rate of suicide is three times higher for the LGBTQIA+ population, and substance abuse is higher as well.

Allies from the heterosexual community are a significant and majority voice,” says Khurana. “They have a dominant role in the law, and policy-making. They must look at this issue as a human rights issue. It’s more than just what happens in the bedroom, and they need to get the seriousness of that.

Currently, long-term interns at the Karma Centre are given some basic sex education and information about the sexual spectrum. Through its various workshops and programmes, the centre hopes to reach out to more and more people and educate them about LGBTQIA+ well-being, and that’s certainly wonderful to see.

You must be to comment.

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Similar Posts

By Meghna Mehra

By Rahul Sen

By Sas3 Tranimal

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below