[Reader-list] Sappho, the poetess of Lesbos to Sappho, Kolkata (Calcutta)- 5th Posting

Sappho for Equality sappho1999 at rediffmail.com
Thu Jul 15 11:59:57 IST 2004

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Deriving its name from the legendary character of ancient Greek literature, Sappho is a support group for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. With its base in Kolkata, West Bengal, it is the only group of its kind in the whole of eastern India. Founded on 20th June 1999 on the initiative of just one lesbian couple wanting to find a space for social interaction without needing to conceal their sexual preference and their real relationship, today Sappho has more than 50 regular members. and provides safe space for many more through its helpline, email service and website information.

The primary goal of the organization was to provide safe space for women with same sex preference but gradually it moved into a rights oriented movement to fight discrimination and hatred against marginalized women with same sex preference so that free, fair and fearless life does not remain a utopia.


1.Creating a safe space for women with same-sex preference, irrespective of their economic background, caste, class, religion and language differences.

2.Reaching out to more community sisters. 

3.Providing legal and health care services to the members as and when required.

4.Highlighting issues of sexual preference and autonomy within the broad spectrum of Human Rights.

5.Providing information services to the larger society to create public awareness in India on lesbianism.

6.Providing library and information services to community sisters and the larger society for increasing understanding about homosexuality.

7.Networking amongst LGBT groups in India & abroad.

8.Building up referral network with other NGOs working on women issues.

9.Publicizing our issues through the media and publication.


1.Participation in a five day Human Rights Film and Cartoon Festival in March 2000, organized by the British Council, Kolkata, it had one day devoted to Gay and Lesbian Rights.

2.Conducted a two-day workshop in collaboration with Sangini, New Delhi, on Counseling in June 2000.

3.Organized a Seminar and Film Festival entitled "Breaking the Silence" in collaboration with the British Council, Kolkata in June, 2000.

4.Became member of Maitree, a network of West Bengal-based women’s organizations, NGOs and activists, in July 2000, to make our presence felt in the social development world.

5.Participated in the National Conference on Human Rights at Panchgani in December 2000, organized by the India Centre for Human Rights and Law, Mumbai, India.

6.Introduced the Sappho Helpline (033 2281 3462, Mondays, 1-3 pm) in January 2001, with the support of Sappho’s referral network.

7.Organized a Seminar entitled "Creating Ripples" in collaboration with the British Council, Kolkata in March, 2001.

8.Became the first organization in India to participate with its own banner and declared stance in the International Women’s Day programme, organized by Maitree in March 2001.

9.Conducted a two-day workshop in collaboration with Sangini, New Delhi, on Safer Sex in May 2002.

10.Independently organized a Seminar entitled "Lesbianism : Facts & Fictions" in December 2002.

11.Organized a joint program with Diksha and Pratyay, which consisted of cultural performances, poster exhibition and a panel discussion titled as "Any Movement for Rights to Sexual Preferences is Unnecessary" in June 2003. 

12.Started its counseling service in December 2003 with the voluntary help of an eminent psychiatrist. At present it is mainly targeted for the group members who face a lot of adverse and depressing situations for their sexual orientation, Sappho strongly believes that in near future this service can be extended to interested parents, and other family members too.

13.Formed an extended support group Sappho For Equality, where anyone who supports our cause can join irrespective of gender and sexual orientation in December 2003.

14.Brought out its first issue of biannual newsletter "Swakanthey, In Her Own Voice" in January 2004 on the event of Kolkata Book Fair. 

15.Presented "Beyond Whispers", a public programme on 15th February 2004 with the screening of  "Ushna Tar Janya", a film raising questions on sexual identities followed by a panel discussion on issues related to sexual identities, marginalization and social inacceptance. The panelists included Pramada Menon (Director, Programme , CREA, New Delhi), Kaushik Ganguly, the director of the telefilm and the two lead performers - Rupa Ganguly, an eminent film actress and Chapal Bhaduri, a well-known stage performer in women roles. Dr. Amit Ranjan Basu, an independent researcher on sexuality and mental health, moderated the discussion. At the question answer session a deluge of interesting questions poured in from the audience. The questions came from a varied cross section of the society. 

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