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Editor’s Note: This month, that is July 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Feminism And Body Image, where we invite various articles about the diverse range of experiences which we often confront, with respect to our bodies in private or public spaces, or both. If you’d like to share your article, email us at pragya@feminisminindia.com. 


Posted by Nikita Chatterjee

Questions about sex and sexual health remain grossly unaddressed in contemporary Indian society. A majority of educational institutions do not have provisions for sex and sexuality education. In the cases wherein there is some form of sex and sexuality education, the discourse that is provided is purely heterosexual in nature, which results in the isolation and stigmatisation of the LGBTQI community. In many cases when sexual education courses are provided, there is vehement opposition from parents or political agents because of the pervading perception that remains, that openness on the discourse around sex will make our community more sexually promiscuous.  

disability
Image Source: Feminism In India

The practice of sex, especially unmarried sex continues to remain highly stigmatised in Indian societies. This opposition to sex and sexuality education has been proven to be unfounded on several levels, because the stigmatisation of sex does not halt exploration of it. In contrast, it leaves young adults more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and sexual exploitation. In India, the data from the National Crime Bureau revealed that 109 children were being raped every day in 2018. There was a 22% jump from the previous year. A known fact is that in majority of Child Sexual Abuse cases, the perpetrators were family members or friends who were known to the survivor.

In the debate around sex and sexuality education, a community who continues to remain invisibilised is the differently-abled community. The assumption that continues to prevail is that people who are differently abled are asexual, and just not interested in sex. This perception is not based on any form of factual evidence. Contrary to popular  belief, people who are differently abled do have sexual needs like any other individual.

However, Owing to the deeply rooted stigmatisation that is present, questions around disability and sex continue to remain unaddressed. Knowledge of the manner in disability, that influences their sexual and reproductive health, can actually prevent scenarios of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy and sexual exploitation. 

Owing to the deeply rooted stigmatisation that is present, questions around disability and sex continue to remain unaddressed. Knowledge of the manner in disability, that influences their sexual and reproductive health, can actually prevent scenarios of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy and sexual exploitation. 

An example of this is the manner in which attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder commonly known as ADHD can impact the sex life of individuals. ADHD is a disorder which is characterised by a continuous pattern of inattention which can also be combined with hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with overall development and functioning. People with ADHD can experience hypoactivity which refers to difficulty in concentration or hyperactive behavior.

Image Source: ADDitude

In the scenario wherein a person faces issues with hypoactivity, they are prone to get distracted during sexual intercourse. They may face issues with orgasms or in the case of men, they may face difficulties in getting an erection. These issues maybe caused due to the fact that they are easily distracted during sex In the case of people who have issues with hyperactivity, wherein the person wrestles with impulsivity, there may be a situation wherein the person experiences hypersexual tendencies. This may result in engaging in risky scenarios such as unprotected sex with multiple partners which puts them at risk at catching an STD.  

In the scenario wherein a person faces issues with hypoactivity, they are prone to get distracted during sexual intercourse. They may face issues with orgasms or in the case of men, they may face difficulties in getting an erection. In the case of people who have issues with hyperactivity, wherein the person wrestles with impulsivity, there may be a situation wherein the person experiences hypersexual tendencies. This may result in engaging in risky scenarios such as unprotected sex with multiple partners which puts them at risk at catching an STD.  

Another misconception that remains prevalent is that disability is something that is inherited. Disability can be due to a genetic disposition in the scenario wherein the parents are close blood relatives. However, largely disability is something that is not inherited. There are external factors which influence the occurrence of a disability. This misconception often creates a scenario wherein a person with disability may not be able to find a partner unless they themselves possess the same disability.

Also read: In Conversation With Jyothsna Phanija: Where Caste, Disability And Gender Meet

This misconception can has severe flaws.

An article released by the People’s Archive of Rural India shares harrowing accounts of cases wherein women who are differently abled were forced into hysterectomies. Around the time when women begin their menstruation, their families are advised by doctors or educational authorities to get a hysterectomy done. It is believed that since the girl has a mental disability, she will not get married. Since she will not get married and have children, what need does she have for a uterus? Hysterectomies were performed on women with intellectual disabilities as young as ten years old. 

This inability to address sex and the desire for sex has had irreparable consequences. There are far too many cases which are arising of women who are differently abled and have been sexually exploited.  Almost 80% of women who are differently abled have faced assault and women with disability are four times more likely to face sexual violence. 

Violence is experienced in a different manner for women with disabilities. In the scenario, if the survivor is someone with autism (a disability wherein sensory functions are enhanced), the attack will be experienced in a further intensified manner. In the scenario, wherein the survivor has limited mobility, there would be difficulty in escaping the assault and in the scenario, wherein the woman has a mental disability, there may be a lack of understanding of the sensations that are being experienced. Women who are blind have also reported cases of assault while travelling. 

It is important that we change the lens which we use to approach discussions around disability and sex in every dimension to prevent the recurrence of these kind of horrific events. Proponents of sex and sexuality education link that it has many benefits. A structured sex and sexuality education curriculum can teach children about positive sexuality, how to prevent harm, safe sex and good reproductive health. It can ensure that children learn about consent, maintaining boundaries and respecting people’s bodies. It can help an individual shape and understand their own identity. It is important that parents also participate and contribute to these sessions to create a healthy attitude towards consent and sex.

Also read: “Am I Enough?” I Am Enough! — Body Imagery And Disability

While working towards developing sex and sexuality education models, it is imperative that we make them inclusive. This would entail providing information and graphics in braille, sign language, videos with subtitles etc. It is important that when a child is diagnosed with a disability, the parents are also made aware about the manner in which the disability may influence the way in which the child will approach sex. Care givers, teachers and therapists must be an active part of the process to ensure its success.

References 

  1. India Today
  2. Psychology Today
  3. Hesperian
  4. Rural India Online
  5. Hindustan Times
  6. The Bastion
  7. SheThePeopleTV

Nikita Chatterjee is a student of development who aspires towards creating social change through collaboration with local communities. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Featured Image Source: Spectrum

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