Online Program

Sexual identity labels and perceived health needs among sexual minority women in Mumbai, India

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 2:43 p.m. - 2:56 p.m.

Jessamyn Bowling, MPH, Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Brian Dodge, PhD, Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Swagata Banik, PhD, Department of Public Health & Prevention Sciences, Baldwin Wallace University, Berea, Greater Cleveland, OH
Shruta Rawat Mengle, M.Sc., Humsafar Trust, Mumbai
Vivek Anand, CEO, Humsafar Trust, Mumbai, India
Significance: Sexual minority women (i.e., women who do not identify as heterosexual) in India not only face gender discrimination, but also discrimination based on sexual identity given the re-criminalization of same-sex sexual relations in India. Recent research on sexual minority men in India demonstrates the diversity of identity labels used, but women’s identity labels have not yet been documented. Understanding these women’s experiences is important for addressing both stigma as well as mental health and related issues in this marginalized population.

Objective: This project qualitatively examines sexual minority women’s identity labels and perceived health needs in Mumbai, India

Methods: This study included 12 in-depth interviews (10 lesbian identified, 2 bisexually identified women) and one focus group discussion (5 lesbian identified women, 1 bisexually identified) conducted in Mumbai, India. All were conducted in Hindi and English. Interviews and the focus group were recorded, then translated and transcribed in English. Themes from both the focus group and interviews are reported together.

Results: Identity labels of “women who love women” aligned primarily with Western labels. Main themes of perceived risk and protective factors based on an ecological model were reported and discussed. Gender identity was more salient than sexual identity for some participants, given the patriarchal climate of Mumbai. Participants emphasized macro-level (e.g., legal and criminal consequences) and interpersonal level (e.g., family acceptance) needs. Communities of sexual minority women, both in India and internationally, were positive factors and assisted some participants in identity formation.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the risk and protective factors operating at various ecological levels in the perceived health needs of sexual minority women in Mumbai, India Identify aspects of binegativity for sexual minority women in Mumbai Describe identity labels of sexual minority women in Mumbai

Keyword(s): International Health, Community-Based Research (CBPR)

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Jessamyn is the Project Coordinator at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and a Public Health PhD student at Indiana University. She received her Master in Public Health with a focus on Health Behavior and Health Promotion from the University of Arizona. Her primary research foci are sexual minorities, global health, subjective experiences of sexuality and pleasure, and community-based participatory research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.