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Sexuality and Disability India

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Consent, harassment and autonomy

We were at the Rotary School for the Hearing Impaired for a day-long workshop, as part of a series done in Mumbai with the Deaf community. The workshop was attended by around 25 young women and was conducted by two of our training of trainers participants, Sunita and Kanika, from V-Shesh. The Point of View team supported, with the help of a sign language interpreter.

The focus for the day was sexual harassment and consent. We spoke about consent between friends, colleagues and even strangers. One of the girls shared, “I am the only disabled person in my office and often my colleagues touch me without asking me. One day, I broke down and felt helpless.” Many of them shared their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse, and the subsequent difficulty in communicating their discomfort with the person harassing them.

We then eased into the conversation on violence, by talking about how different touches make us feel different things – the difference between a kiss that you want, and a kiss that leaves you feeling ashamed or uncomfortable. “Focus on what you feel. It is important to centre your own feelings and what you feel,” Nidhi Goyal of Point of View emphasised.

The group also discussed the laws around sexual harassment, and how to navigate different situations. What do you do when a man undresses in front of you? What do you do when you have no “proof”? How do you communicate with the police? How can Deaf women handle sexual harassment in public?

We ended by debunking myths around harassment. “Do not think that problem is with women. Women don’t need to adjust or change their behaviour. Especially if wearing certain clothes gives you pleasure. It is men who need to change their gaze and reflect on harassment,” our trainer said.