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Sexuality and Disability India

  /  Workshops   /  My Body   /  “I have a girlfriend!”
A black board with the words safe and unsafe written on it, and colourful post its stuck beneath each word

“I have a girlfriend!”

On January 25, 2016, we went to the Rotary Sanskardham Vidhyalaya for special children. This was the first time we were conducting workshops with hearing impaired students. The ice-breaking session brings out the diversity in a group that enjoys photography, dancing and applying make up. After learning how to clap in sign language – by waving your hands in the air like jazz hands – we have a talk called ‘Abnormality and Normality’ by our counsellor Chitra Joshi, followed by our leader Nidhi Goyal speaking about ‘Relationships.’ The participants talk about both familial and romantic relationships, and talk about what makes a relationship romantic. This includes flowers, chocolates and gifts that a couple gives each other. Some of the boys blush and admit to having girlfriends! There is also a conversation on the ills of drinking and substance abuse, and there was considerable awareness among the participants about this topic.

The conversation then shifts to violence of all kinds, in relationships  which included physical, emotional and even financial violence, among other things. The participants speak about what makes them feel safe and unsafe — the primary difference being, having someone familiar with you or being alone. The main reason for feeling unsafe in public spaces however, is due to the communication barrier with non-hearing impaired people. The participants conclude that one must go out and interact with others so that they feel more confident, and a larger number of people start understanding sign language and communicating with hearing-impaired people too.

The second half of the workshop consisted of sex-education, separately for boys and girls. Dr Neepa conducts the session, and there are a lot of questions about girls, from the boys. Questions revolve around the difference between anal and vaginal sex, sex while on periods, and the importance of protection. ‘Yes, condoms are important to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and UTI etc. It is clear now,’ sign the male participants. Another participant who knows about HIV signs the information to her friends, while one boy wonders how homosexual people have sex.

Before the male group starts condom training, an instruction is given: ‘Please don’t eat the bananas!’ An impromptu video about how babies are made is also shown, and the girls are very eager to relay this information to their interpreter, Sayli. The participants have a barrage of questions, about pregnancy  ‘Is giving birth to a child easy for fat girls then slim girls?’, about female masturbation  ‘Fingering? But where exactly do you put the fingers?!’ and about rape  ‘How does it happen? Can it happen at home?’ With this, the first day of workshops at the Rotary Sanskardham Vidhyalaya comes to an end.