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Lesbian helpline gets busy before its launch January 29, 2009

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Lesbian, Times of India.
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From The Times of India:

29 Jan 2009, 0337 hrs IST, Arun Ram, TNN

CHENNAI: The first dedicated lesbian helpline in the city started ringing early on Wednesday, 10 days ahead of its scheduled launch, indicating the urgent need for an outlet for lesbians, one of the most suppressed group among sexual minorities in the country. The Times Of India on Wednesday reported about the venture that would provide counselling, support and livelihood assistance to lesbians through the helpline 044-65515742 starting February 7.

“The phone began ringing at 7.15 am and we received 45 calls till 5 pm. We’ve told the callers politely that the service would be operational only from February 7. Our volunteers, however, are attending to every call. This means that there are a large number of people who are waiting to be heard and helped,” said Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO) founder secretary A J Hariharan. ICWO is aided by Johannesberg-based NGO ActionAid and Sangama, a support group for sexual minorities in Bangalore.

“Some wanted to volunteer for us, while some others directly asked for a counsellor. A 26-year-old woman called up to say that she is having a relationship with another woman at her workplace. We promised her advise as soon as the helpline becomes fully functional. We have instructed all our volunteers not to ask the callers any questions and to just listen them out,” Hariharan said.

Activists for sexual minorities are overwhelmed by the response and see the helpline catalysing collaborations between like-minded groups. “We would be keen on joining hands with the ICWO in promoting and handling the helpline service,” said Padma Govindan of Sakthi Centre that hold group therapies for lesbians. “The first challenge would be to have enough qualified people to attend and document the calls.”

While social workers like Sunil of Sangama say it is ideal to have lesbians taking the calls, Govindan feels what counts in the person handling the call is professionalism more than sexual orientation. Initially ICWO will have gays attending the calls, before the organisation gets enough lesbians to volunteer.

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