Let’s Open the Doors: Sexuality and Disability
Attending the panel discussion on “disability and sexuality” was an eye opener for me. I am really thankful to TARSHI (Talking about Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues – www.tarshi.net ) for organizing this seminar and Beyond Eye for giving me an opportunity to attend this seminar. The speakers Nandini Rao, Renu Addhlakha and Merry Barua shared their personal stories which kept me hooked and gave me incentive to learn more and more through the stories of people present in seminar.
Just like most of the people, thinking about anything other than the disability of a PWD (Person with Disability) was difficult for me, and sex, that thought never occurred to me. If I analyze about this ignorance, I realize sex in India is basically seen as a method to grow your family, it has nothing to do with pleasure or happiness. The common notion “disabled are non-sexual or hypersexual” was shattered there once everybody shared their stories which are in discussed in the following paragraphs. They are not. They are not different. They have sexual aspirations too. It’s sad to know that on one hand they are considered to be non-sexual but on the other hand they are the ones who are the most vulnerable to sexual harassment.
Most people in India restrict disability to physical impairment. Intellectual disability is not even included. Merry Barua, who has an autistic son recalls an incident where the census failed to register her son as disabled. She said that her son who is 6’2” doesn’t seem to be disabled but is suffering from autism, but census didn’t record because for them he looked “physically fine.” According to her “each disability is different but are bracketed under same umbrella”. Nidhi Goyal, a visually impaired standup comedian, shared through a video, how one of her blind friend wasn’t registered in census because she was educated and earning and married against the “popular belief” how can a disabled person live a normal life. Abha Khetarpal, a consultant at FAT (Feminist Approach to Technology) told us about how disabled persons are forced to have a limited life. From what to wear and whom to marry is controlled by the society.
A couple who has an autistic son put forth an advise that there should be something like “TINDER” specially designed for disabled community to meet like-minded people. I felt his request was very genuine. We often, knowingly or unknowingly put people into categories and when it comes to things like relationships and marriage, we lean towards certain people from selected categories which meet our standards. Isn’t it common in news that a marriage was called off or a person was rejected because of disability?
Renu Addlakha who has low visibility shared with us that while she was growing up, if you are disabled, it is considered that your life has ended. She told her family was very really worried about her marriage. They feared who would marry her since she couldn’t see clearly. However, she proved the society wrong. Currently she is a professor at a reputed institute and has published many research paper pertaining to gender and disability).
This seminar was very new to me. It has made me look at this side of disability too which most people chose to ignore. I would suggest that these kind of seminar should happen often and target more and more audience, so that we can understand more about PWD and have a broader vision of their life.
(The views expressed in this article are purely of the author)