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Sexuality and Disability India

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A group of 5 sit on the floor smiling and talking to each other

Role-playing relationships and romance

The last leg of the Nagpur workshop dealt with various topics ranging from love, dating, relationships, intimate partner violence to myths and stigma, harassment, safety and security, internalized oppression, masculinity and privileges.

We also welcomed Dr Asif Virani to Twitter! He was super curious about what this live Tweeting was all about, and made an account for himself! On that happy note, we divided the participants into groups for role plays in open-ended situations. Plays talked about couples with one sighted and one visually impaired partner, and the issues that cropped up because of that. We followed this up with a combined discussion on what relationships ‘should be like’.

‘Blind people need not necessarily marry another blind person. Yet, the sighted person should not consider it a favour that they are marrying someone visually impaired,’ says Nidhi.

She talks about when she registered on the online marriage bureau, Shaadi.com, and how shocked the parents of the guy were when she told them she was visually impaired. Yet the opinions of the group are diverse. Kranti Devar, our resource person, expands the conversation on equality and respect not from the standpoint of disability but as a must-have in a relationship. There are giggles around the room when Nidhi asks if we are looking for a lover, or a cook, nurse and driver instead! But while one participant says, falling in love with a visually impaired person is a sacrifice, another says that if someone is truly in love with you, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.

Participants then share the things people tell them that enrage them. ‘They talk loudly to us as if we are deaf. We are only blind, not dumb and not stupid either.’ ‘Other people talk about visually impaired people in our presence, which is frustrating and hurtful.’ Kranti takes over and talks about safety, security and sexual harassment. Kranti asks, ‘Does violence happens only at the in-laws place?’ She talks about internalized oppression and discrimination and touches upon masculinity and privilege as well. She asks if a girl should tell her parents when she is being abused by her husband. One girl jokingly says that the parents would beat the girl up and just send her back to the husband, but another is determined and voices that ‘India should also undergo a revolution for women’s empowerment like it happened hundred years ago in western countries.’ Participants also echo Kranti’s thoughts on ending violence against women, which should be done by men and women together. ‘Privileges which men get from birth, women have to fight for them,’ she says.

‘Women are their own enemy.’ As the men in the room agree loud, Kranti explains how patriarchy has caused and perpetuated this belief. ‘It is my decision & choice, I should have the confidence to do so (make a choice). Anyone can be abused, in spite of ability or disability. Society has given men the responsibility to protect women. It is an incorrect perception. One has to protect oneself,’ she concludes.

With this, we end a super two-day workshop in Nagpur with lots of learning, experiences and enlightenment!