Fears around marriage and partnership
Day 2 of the workshop begins with a recap of yesterday and a Q&A session with the participants, who want to know about arranged marriage and are reassured that just like Arunima Sinha, a person with disability who scaled the Everest, disability and capability go hand in hand — for being disabled does not make you weak or less capable.
We move onto the relationships session, where we make use of a musical ball and play a fun game. Whoever gets the ball must say a line, and each person after that must continue in order to form a story. After story weaving, it is time for our favourite activity — role plays. The participants are divided into groups and come up with a diverse set of role plays revolving around visual impairment and romance. Kranti, our counsellor for the workshop picked up cues from these role plays and began an insightful discussion about the gender issues, violence and abuse, followed by an understanding of relationships in the patriarchal structure of the society.
The participants share stories of discrimination they have faced both at home and outside, including not being allowed to use a computer or being discriminated against by extended family. Then Kranti asks some interesting questions. 75% of participants would like to have a partner, but only 20% of these are okay with living alone. Most participants are scared to seek partners, not just because of their disability, but also because of fears around marriage itself, including abuse and unaccepting families. Kranti has some thoughts and advice about all this. She says, ‘another thing to think of is whether we use the blindness to emotionally blackmail our family, or use it to your advantage?’ which leaves all the participants deep in thought.
Moving on to power dynamics, she makes it clear that any form of hitting, shouting and beating is tantamount to harassment and violence and is unacceptable. ‘Power is never equal at home. Familial power, cultural power & everything is with the man. The fact that he earns makes it worse.’ While talking about sexual violence, Kranti asks if it is only women that face sexual harassment, and one participant softly says that even men face it, especially same sex harassment. Kranti explains that men have to deal with patriarchy and machismo. They cannot afford to look weak and hence cannot talk about the abuse. The participants are also in agreement that even same sex relationships can be both consensual or forced. There is an endless barrage of questions to be answered — about whether visually impaired persons face more or less harassment than sighted individuals and about whether sex should only be reserved for post-marriage.
The workshop is coming to a close, and our leader Nidhi wraps it up with a challenging question, which is — why do we only think of a sighted person as a potential partner for a visually impaired person, but not of someone with another disability. With this, we come to the end of a fun and extremely insightful workshop at the Poona Blind men’s association.