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Public Health, Gender, and Sexuality

Understand how and why India's approaches to health, gender, sexuality, and identity are changing.

At a Glance





Language of Study


Courses taught in



Aug 28 – Dec 10

Program Countries


Program Base

New Delhi

Critical Global Issue of Study

Global Health & Well-being

Development & Inequality


Why study abroad in India?

India has a long and complex history of interventions in reproductive health. Globalization, neoliberalism, and rapid societal changes are changing how India’s public health institutions approach the reproductive health of sexual minorities.

This program offers an opportunity to understand the place of women and sexual minorities in reproductive and sexual health settings. You will have access to SIT’s longstanding network of institutions and public health officials engaged in healthcare delivery and policy-making at national and international levels. In person classroom sessions facilitated by health strategists, experts, and activists, coupled with field and institutional visits, will enable you to learn how reproductive epidemiology informs healthcare delivery for women and sexual minorities in rural and urban contexts. In rural communities, you will conduct fieldwork and engage with community-based organizations and advocacy groups for a deeper dive into grassroots approaches to healthcare access. Through classroom teaching and immersive field study, you will gain knowledge and insights into innovations for inclusive and accessible reproductive and sexual health care in one of the most populated democracies in the world.


  • Engage with practitioners and activists to learn about reproductive epidemiology, gender, and sexual minorities in India.
  • Enhance your skills in standard Hindi and live with a local Indian family.
  • Build your advocacy skills by participating in workshops with public health organizations in rural and urban communities.
  • IIntern with a public health organization to explore career paths and hone your professional and intercultural skills.
  • Travel to the Himalayas, Goa, and Kerala to learn about Indian approaches to health systems and traditional medicine.



program map


The Himalayas

A week-long excursion in the Himalayas will orient you to the primary healthcare system in rural India. Observe the delivery of reproductive and sexual healthcare services at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels through village and community health centers and district government hospitals. Meet doctors, paramedics, patients, health workers and volunteers, trained birth attendants, mobile health teams, and girls’ and women’s groups from villages in Nainital district of Uttarakhand.


A week-long excursion in Goa will focus on the work of community-based organizations that use science with a humanitarian approach to address the physical and psycho-social well-being of women, children, adolescents, and LGBTQIA+ persons. Students will interact with activists, mental health practitioners and scholars, legal experts, and survivors to get a 360-degree view of mental health issues, factors perpetuating domestic violence or child abuse, initiatives for prevention and treatment, and processes of rehabilitation.

Workshop: Jamkhed (Community-based reproductive epidemiology)

Engage in a series of issues-oriented workshops at a variety of host sites. Workshops are designed as case studies around specific topics, problems, and solutions that arise from discussions with host organizers. You will study at the world-renowned Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) in Jamkhed, one of the most effective community health projects in India.

CRHP has worked among the rural poor in the western state of Maharashtra for more than 54 years. By partnering with village communities and building on local knowledge and resources, the project has utilized community-based epidemiological knowledge to meet the immediate- and long-term reproductive and sexual health needs of men, women, and adolescents in marginalized rural populations, regardless of caste and religion.

Workshop: Kerala-Kochi and Trichur Shyatrika

Travel to the southern state of Kerala to learn from its oldest feminist LGBTIA+ support group, Sahayatrika. In this setting, you will learn about the impact of 20 years of crisis intervention, support, advocacy and campaign work on societal perceptions of queerness and shifts in inclusion and visibility of queer persons in Malayali society.

You will engage with a range of LGBTQIA+ activists and allies in cities of Trichur and Kochi to understand the physical and mental health needs of queer persons, their social determinants, and the public health responses to these needs. You will interact with public health experts and medical practitioners to develop a critical evaluation of the health establishment’s ability to deliver efficacious and respectful healthcare to LGBTQIA+ persons in a state lauded for its achievements in human development.

Workshop: Udaipur-Seva Mandir and Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti (Reproductive and Tribal Health)

Seva Mandir has worked in community development for more than 50 years among the most vulnerable populations in the tribal blocks of Udaipur. In this workshop, you will engage with health functionaries and visit resource centers for women and youth to understand grassroots approaches to violence against women, a known predictor of poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

Learn from trainers and youth groups about preventive tools and rehabilitative interventions, the gendered nature of domestic violence and accusations of witchcraft against women, and about sexual and reproductive rights. Meet traditional healers, visit herbal gardens, and gain an understanding of Indigenous herbal medicine in pregnancy, childbirth, and post-natal care with Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti, which works in integrated rural development, promotion of traditional health systems, and advocacy.

Workshop: Palampur (Traditional Health Practices-Ayurveda and Yoga)

Surrounded by the beautiful Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas, participate in a workshop at Kayakalp, an organization that aims to provide complete healthcare by treating body, mind, and soul. Take introductory classes followed by a demonstration of the traditional Indian practices of Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation therapies. In addition, travel to McLeod Ganj, home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Analyze the role of various actors and institutions in delivering healthcare services to women and sexual minorities in India.
  • Apply key concepts and identify methodological challenges in reproductive and perinatal epidemiology, and evaluate socio-demographic, behavioral, and biological risk factors for adverse outcomes, and the mechanisms for observed epidemiological associations.
  • Examine public health policy and healthcare management in the context of reproductive and sexual health in mid-income countries.
  • Demonstrate the connections between the public health agenda and notions of right to healthcare for women and sexual minorities as they intersect with the processes of social, economic, and political change.
  • Synthesize field-level learnings and observations with gender and sexual health theories in an Independent Study Project or internship paper.
  • Enhance conversation and communication proficiency in Hindi.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Learn about reproductive healthcare in India.
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  • Examine the spectrum of identities evolving outside of heterosexual marriage and emerging health needs.
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  • Explore a range of public health challenges.
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  • Witness regional and grassroots approaches to healthcare access.
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  • Understand health and its relationship to human fulfillment.

Reproductive Epidemiology

Reproductive Epidemiology – syllabus
(IPBH3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar explores reproductive epidemiology and its application with specific reference to the context of India. Students will first be introduced to basic principles and methods to understand the distribution and determinants of disease and other health-related states. These epidemiological tools and assessment measures provide a scientific basis to design preventive, curative, and rehabilitative programs for rational interventions, using available resources to efficiently and effectively check disease and mortality, reduce suffering due to illness and its impacts, and enhance the quality of life of social groups and communities.

Through a combination of classroom teaching, field excursions, and workshops, the seminar will orient students to a critical appreciation of the epidemiological rationale underpinning the life course approach to reproductive and sexual health in the public health service system in India.

Sexual Minorities and the Right to Healthcare

Sexual Minorities and the Right to Healthcare – syllabus
(IPBH3500 / 3 credits)

This seminar examines the dynamics of provision and access to reproductive and sexual healthcare services among women and sexual minorities in the Indian healthcare systems through a rights-based approach. Through site visits and panel discussions with representatives from communities of sexual minorities, students will gain an understanding of the spectrum of identities evolving outside the dominant paradigm of heterosexual marriage; their lived experience within families, queer relationships and collectives, and emerging health needs. The seminar will identify the range of physical and mental health needs of straight, gay/lesbian, gender queer, hijra, and trans persons across caste and class. The seminar will also evaluate the trajectories of policy and programmatic responses by the public healthcare services and present an overview of civil society responses.


Beginning Hindi syllabus
(HIND1003-1503 / 3 credits)

Intermediate Hindi – syllabus
(HIND2003-2503 / 3 credits)

Advanced Hindi – syllabus
(HIND3003-3503 / 3 credits)

Based on an in-country evaluation  that includes oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes. The emphasis is on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Students acquire a solid foundation in standard Hindi to enable interaction with speakers of Hindi in north India and all over the world. Students will be expected to make rapid progress in both speaking and listening comprehension by using Hindi outside of class as much as possible, particularly with family members in their homestays. Although we expect that dedicated students will acquire a strong, functional ability to communicate in Hindi, students wishing to interact substantively with Hindi speakers should expect extensive collaboration with a translator for their Independent Study Project or internship.

Field Methods and Ethics

Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

Concepts and skills introduced in Field Methods and Ethics unite and reinforce all program components. They are put to the test through the execution and successful completion of an Independent Study Project or internship at the end of the semester. Students learn about cross-cultural adaptation; build skills in project selection and refinement; choose appropriate methodologies; and apply ethical principles in field studies in observance of the SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Students practice developing contacts and finding resources; honing skills of observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.

The Field Methods and Ethics course helps students understand the methods, rationale, and considerations underpinning the selection of question-appropriate health indicators. Students learn the sociological and policy importance of gathering data on reproductive and sexual health and rights-based healthcare, and their value in creating a better society.

Independent Study Project or Internship

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in north India or in another approved location. Sample topic areas: international, national, and regional responses to epidemics and pandemics, especially for women and sexual minorities; role of gender in health equity and disability; major  challenges for women and sexual minorities to accessing sexual and reproductive transmitted diseases-related services; target healthcare intervention for women and LGBTQIA+ communities; impact of globalization on healthcare delivery to marginalized communities; healthcare services planning and management; privatization of health services and health tourism in low-middle income countries. The Independent Study Project culminates in a research paper and presentation.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Issues and challenges in delivery of reproductive and sexual health services
  • Traditional health approaches to mental healthcare and psychological well-being in India
  • Reproductive and child health issues and practices
  • International, national, and regional responses to epidemics and pandemics especially for women and sexual minorities
  • Disability, mental health, sexual orientation, and gender identity in India
  • Major reproductive and sexual health challenges.
  • Access and affordable health services for sexual minorities.
  • Community-level reproductive health surveys and impact assessments
  • Malnutrition and gender dynamics
  • Health planning and management
  • Privatization of medical services and health tourism

Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community or research organization, business, or international NGO in India. The aim of the internship is to enable students to gain valuable work experience and enhance their skills in an international work environment. Specifically, students will conduct an internship in the context of reproductive and sexual health, gender and sexuality issues in India. The focus will be on linking internship learning with the program’s critical global issues. The seminar includes regular reflection and assessment meetings with the academic director or internship coordinator to review the progress of the internship and learning associated with the internship experience. Students complete a substantial academic paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. Students also conduct an oral presentation of their internship experience and findings.

Sample Internships:

  • Understanding the community-based reproductive epidemiology of CRHP Jamkhed.
  • Working with Naz Foundation to capture the process of decriminalization of consensual same-sex relationships in India.
  • Supporting the work of Nazariya, a queer advocacy group in Delhi
  • Supporting the work of Gaysi Family, a lesbian support group
  • Assist with Sangath mental health awareness campaign for sexual minorities.
  • Indulged with Aarohi to work in rural Himalayan communities on reproductive and sexual health


New Delhi

Live with a homestay family in New Delhi for approximately seven weeks. Families are typically middle-class and of various sizes and religious backgrounds. Most families have multiple generations living under one roof and are in neighborhoods where transportation, shopping, and internet resources are easily accessible. Most are within a 20-minute metro commute from the program center.

Typically, two students of the same gender are placed in one home, allowing them to safely travel to and from program activities together. In addition, homestay families are well-equipped to safeguard students’ safety. SIT also checks on students regularly during their homestays.

Excursion & Orientation Accommodations

Other accommodations include NGO guesthouses, hostels, educational institutions, or small hotels.

Career Paths

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta

  • Technical Officer, World Health Organization

  • Co-founder, Broad Street Maps, Seattle, Washington

  • Fulbright Nehru Fellow researching the rehabilitation of drug-addicted youth in India

  • Boren Fellow studying Hindi and conducting independent research on sanitation, infection, and nutrition, India

  • Medical and public health master’s degree students at Yale University and Johns Hopkins University

Faculty & Staff

India: Public Health, Gender, and Sexuality

Abid Siraj, PhD bio link
Abid Siraj, PhD
Academic Director
Chris M. Kurian, PhD bio link
Chris M. Kurian, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, India
Archna Merh, MA bio link
Archna Merh, MA
Senior Faculty and Student Affairs Coordinator
Bhavna Singh bio link
Bhavna Singh
Senior Faculty and Homestay Coordinator
Goutam Merh, MA bio link
Goutam Merh, MA
Senior Faculty and Excursion Coordinator

Discover the Possibilities

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