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Sexuality and Disability India

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A sign that reads Vivekananda centre for youth counselling positive thinking and value education. An auto, trees, and red brick building in the background

‘Boys are bad, they misbehave with girls’

This is second in a series on #sexdis workshops in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh). It was held on April 8th at Vivekananda Center, RamaKrishna Ashram Mission, for girls with visual impairment. We’re joined by Pramada Menon as trainer who’d be focusing on disrupting gender norms, stereotypes, power relations & sexuality. Smriti kickstarted the day with some ice-breaking games. The girls sang, shared the names of their favorite actors, films and friends. Hesitant in the beginning, they gradually opened to us and poured their hearts out.

Pramada Menon began her session on “Disrupting Gender Norms” by asking a simple question, “Are you a boy or girl?”. Girls broke into laughter and answered: GIRL.

To which Pramada further prodded them to answer, “Why are you a girl?”

This lead to a flurry of answers that exposed that their understanding of gender is primarily based on normative social influence – from parents, friends, teachers and the media. Answers ranged from having long hair and pierced ears to having periods and being able to give birth. This was followed by making them look into traditional gender roles that expects girls to seek protection and boys to exercise freedom. “Boys are bad, they force and misbehave with girls.” This appeared to be a common perception among girls. In a slew of questions, Pramada furthered into understanding why boys are bad and why male-female relationship is looked down upon by them.

Participants held a staunch opinion against bad boys and bad girls. Girls who fall in love and run away brings shame to the family. Love and expressions of love and sex before marriage are not sanctioned for girls. She will bring disrespect to the family name if she does so.

Participants also delved into what makes boys bad and the humiliation a girl faces if she is ill-treated by a boy. However, they maintained that if a girl wants to study and have a career that causes a dispute between her and her parents, it is not wrong. While shame is associated with running away with boys, they concur that they are not bringing shame to their family, but pursuing their dreams by studying and working.

Pramada went on to ask about the difference in roles played by a brother and a sister in a household, and assured the girls that they are no less, and that being visually impaired should in no way hamper the way in which the contribute to the house and the family. They should not feel bad about seeking support.

‘It isn’t because of an innate issue with you, but because the world is not designed for your disability. It is not your fault but a lack on part of the system.’