"After Mood-I and Insight orientation, it is now time to talk about sexual orientation…"
This statement was the last part of the orientation session that more than 400 freshers sat through at the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay (IIT-B) on Monday.
In a first for an Indian campus, the prestigious engineering institute has addressed and recognised the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) community on campus.
Last month, students set up Saathi, a support group for the LGBTQ community.
"Statistically speaking, about four to 10% of any population is gay. So, on the IIT campus, there could be about 700 gay students but they are all invisible. We hope Saathi will inspire other colleges to follow suit and soon society will change," said Nivvedan S, founder of Saathi.
Nivvedan, a second year engineering student, set up Saathi along with Harishchandra Ramadas, a student who will pass out this year, and a US-based alumnus. Saathi currently has 40 members.
The institute has allowed Saathi to use the student mailing list to connect with students.
"We as a society and country have been ignorant and indifferent to the LGBTQ community for far too long. Saathi is a fine example of IIT-B's legacy of change and freedom of mind," said Jaya Joshi, IIT-B's public relations officer.
Saathi's concept note states that LGBTQ students live in a state of confusion, unhappiness and anxiety. "Some suffer from depression, a few of our friends have even seriously contemplated suicide," the note states.
Saathi gained momentum after Ramadas wrote an article, "Gay @ IITB: Out and About", in the student newsletter. The article has had 6,000 views and 700 likes. "I have been through the long and painful process of being confused and lonely and finally coming out. The process has been liberating. Through Saathi we hope to be the people that others can turn to," said Ramadas.