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Sexuality and Disability India

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4 girls act out a play while others watch on behind them

Celebrating puberty

Point of View conducted workshops in Gujarat for the very first time in March 2016. On March 27th, we had sessions with twenty-two blind and deaf-blind girls from Blind People’s Association, Ahmedabad. We began with an interesting ice breaking session where the girls had to introduce themselves with one desire they always wanted to fulfill. Desires ranged from wearing good clothes to studying hard and getting a job.

After this, Dr. Neha Muliya from Baroda conducted a session on ‘Understanding the Body,’ during which menstruation & reproductive processes were explained through body models, and safety and contraception was talked about through condom training. Uterus models and charts also did the rounds as participants got detailed knowledge on fallopian tubes, ovaries and the female anatomy. The girls also shared their own experiences of hitting puberty and their thoughts on periods. They spoke about rituals performed at home to celebrate the onset of puberty by preparing sweets to offer needed nutrition. During this conversation, doubts on menstruation and menstrual and personal hygiene were raised. Yet, the girls were extremely shy when it came to understanding the male reproductive system through models and giggled when our leader Nidhi asked them questions about pregnancy.

Nidhi then divided the girls into four groups and gave them the four topics of choices, consent, rejection and trust to come up with role-plays to initiate discussion on relationships. The skits portrayed different people in different situations — such as how a handicapped girl is harassed and eve-teased, and what happens when a visually impaired man leaves his visually impaired fiancee for a sighted woman, and then the same thing happens to him. This is followed by a discussion on the use of the word ‘normal’ for those who are not disabled, and on self-esteem and relationships. They breaks myths with Nidhi, and get a clearer understanding of what choice means for them, even as handicapped individuals. Nidhi goes on to talk about the ideals of beauty and how skin colour is not everything.

We then welcomed Jasoda Rana, counsellor from Swati Organisation to talk about the legal rights of a woman. She explored the topics of physical and mental harassment, and posed questions about consent and the grey area of marital rape. Participants say that their family members tell them to bear with whatever the husband does to them because it is his ‘right’ and she would enjoy it anyway. Jasoda also talked about the various helplines anyone in such a situation could call, which include organizations and the police. Nidhi brings the session to a close by saying that it is very important to recognize discrimination and harassment, and not just accept it as a fate because of disability. The girls feel very empowered, for they are excited to meet again the next day.