development

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Regulation of Disabled Women’s Sexuality

By Nisha (Source: Bell Bajao)

...

they look at me, they hear my desire,

and they say ‘scab.’

And they say ‘dreamer’ like it was a dirty word

and they say ‘how dare she say such a thing

how dare she say she wants to walk

again how dare she say she’d prefer

to run free, to feel her vagina again

how dare she voice that

after all we have done to make

disability a state in which to be proud?’

… [1]

I began this essay by asking two of my colleagues, leaders in the disability movement in India, about their views on sexuality and disability. One response was, “You know better about the issues being faced by disabled persons here than to waste your time on sex obsessed Western thinking.” The other wondered, “(Disability)[2] still remains a kicked off affair in the triangle of charity/welfare, medical rehabilitation and vocational training … when and how do we talk about sexuality?”  I also (not so) vaguely remembered a comment which I heard some months back at a rehabilitation centre in Cuttack, India about a pregnant young woman with cognitive disability:  “She just can’t control … they take their eyes off her for a minute and she has done it with someone … Men! I tell you … Third pregnancy … can’t even get hysterectomy … and abortion at this stage is risky.”

I wondered if my colleagues actually thought it is an irrelevant issue or, perhaps, saw it as a divisive issue for the disability community[3]. Or, being women, did they feel constrained to acknowledge the relevance and risk being perceived as sexual beings in a society which gives respect to women only as long as they remain passive sex objects? Was the person at the rehabilitation centre attempting to control the sexuality of the pregnant woman in a way different from how she would control her own or an ‘able-bodied’ woman’s sexuality?

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