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Sexuality and Disability India

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A group of people sit on red plastic chairs in a room

Breaking stigmas and building self-confidence

Another interesting and learning-filled workshop with Poona Blind Men’s Association at their Technical Training Institute in Pune was held on 4 May, 2016, and this time we had a majority of boys participating. For the ice-breaking session, participants had to choose one item from the kitchen they felt they were most like, and had to explain why to the others. There were several enthusiastic responses, for example, one participant said they were adaptable water, because water takes the shape of any vessel it is put into. There were different interpretations of the same objects, which made the session very interesting.

Moving on, our director Nidhi Goyal led an interactive discussion on self-confidence and self-esteem.

“There is one very important thing for building self-confidence: practice.”

 

Most of the participants do not use canes because of stigma – “It is visible, and embarrassing, and shows other that we cannot see.”

However, over the course of the session, several participants shared other inhibitions as well, which helped Nidhi facilitate a layered discussion with greater understanding of the causes of these inhibitions. Talking about self-confidence, one participant said, “I can’t speak in a group, especially when there are sighted people there too.”

But Nidhi has some reassuring advice for the cohort – “If people are laughing at you for using a cane, then don’t listen to that. Be confident in yourself.” and “If you stop yourself everytime someone says something bad to you, whose loss will it be?”

The group shared some of the nastiest comments they have received, which included, “You must have been a sinner in your previous life. That is why you are blind now.” While another said, “I had gone to learn swimming. When I got out, the instructor asked me if I can change the clothes by myself without any help.”

After lunch, the group engaged in some myth-busting about ‘Understanding the Body’. As always, girls and boys sat in separate rooms to have intimate discussions with our respective doctors. Dr. Nilangi started talking about the menstrual cycle, period and the changes in the body, which Dr. Shirish spoke to the boys about their bodies, masturbation and the like. A lot of stigma surrounds masturbation, but the doctor said “Nightfall is called swapnadosh in Marathi, which literally means dream-wrong. There is nothing wrong in it. It’s perfectly natural.”

The boys giggled and grinned when they saw the models of the breasts and vagina, but as the session went on, showed great interest in understanding women’s bodies better. They also had a lot of questions about hormones and female birth control, which were answered well by the doctor. On the other hand, even the girls were extremely shy when it came to touching the model of a penis. They also giggled and hesitated to ask questions, and the first person to do so received applause for it! After this, there was more myth-busting about menstruation, with the girls asking detailed questions about the process.

And finally, both groups posed queries related to sex itself. One male participant asked, How much curiosity do women have around sex? And the response was, “As much as men. But since they’re judged by society if they talk or ask about sex, they have to pretend that they are not curious at all.”

After this, the discussion turned towards contraception and safe sex, and the group listened to an audio description of a scene from the Bollywood movie PK, titled “Why nobody wants to own a condom packet.” The day ended with the ended with the short documentary ‘Nazar Ya Nazariya’ by Scor Foundation. It features three couples from different stages of life: Abhishek and Sunita; Dr. Dinkar Sharma and Manju Sharma; Jokim and Padma. The bond in their relationships is not seen through the eyes but through the heart. The day ended on a happy note, with workshop participants having learnt so much about their bodies.