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Sexuality and Disability India

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Discussing relationships: From desires to power dynamics

As a follow-up workshop with visually impaired teenagers, we organised a half-day session on abuse and relationships at the National Association for the Blind, Mahalaxmi. The session was conducted by counsellor Chitra Joshi.

‘So I assume everyone has girlfriends/boyfriends here?’ Chitra began. The participants all giggled and responded with a loud, resounding, ‘No!’

Amidst the laughter and ‘haw’-ing when we started talking about relationships, one participant said, ‘Girls can also talk openly.’ Participants are asked to share how they would like their future partners to be. ‘Smart’, ‘capable’, ‘sighted’, ‘beautiful’ are some of the boys’ responses. The girls are more timid with their answers, but some say, ‘independent’, ‘honest’, ‘understanding’.

Moving on from their hopes and aspirations, Chitra talks about the importance of equality in any relationship. She tells them about the different types of abuse – physical, mental, economic, sexual – and we discuss why abuse might happen. ‘Power and patriarchy works through control. This operates even in relationships,’ explains Chitra.

Chitra ends with giving participants an overview of the laws on violence and harassment, and dismantles the shame associated with reporting abuse: ‘It is the abuser who should be ashamed. It’s your right to seek help.’