Linking Sexuality, Disability, and Rights

“I was a tutor on the course that was established in response to the Seed Grant that AWID gave to CREA India to establish a Disability, Sexuality, and Rights Online Training, which we were able to run in 2010 and, with CREA funding, a further one in 2011. They lasted for 2–3 months and had about 20–25 participants, ranging from small communities in Africa to the heart of New York City. Each participant came with a particular set of experiences and a specific desire to share and learn about sexuality in relation to disability and rights. The online experience enabled people to access the course in a way that would not have been possible if done as an ‘in-person’ course. Following the course, an online discussion group enabled continued, if sporadic, contact.

 

I sent out a mail to our tutors and participants to ask what the course had meant for them. Responses that came back within 36 hours included the following extracts. They give a powerful sense of the impact upon individuals and their work. From these and other evaluations, I have pulled together a summary of the impact of the Seed Grant. Issues that emerged included:

 

  • Participants felt able to open up the topic of sexual and disability rights, and speak and write of the sexuality of disabled people in communities where there is commonly silence or ignorance and superstition. In communities as wide-ranging as in Africa, India, and North America, participants have felt able to challenge the gender and sexual discrimination and violence that women with disability (WwD) and people with disability (PwD) face locally.
  • Participants gained the knowledge, skills, and confidence to establish and strengthen a range of support, advice, and advocacy networks and local groups around sexuality, disability, and rights for PwDs, especially WwDs.
  • Participants spoke of a greater knowledge and understanding of the neglect and abuse of individuals’ sexual rights. Some spoke of the particular impact in relation to their understanding of sexuality and mental health, and psychiatric and psychosocial disability.
  • The training led to the building of local and international connections and networks amongst disabled and non-disabled women, and disability and sexuality activists, increasing the opportunities open to us all and making us feel further supported in the work that we do, a part of a community. The political links between disabled activists, non-disabled activists, and feminists is crucial as it responds to what has been a long-running gap within the non-disabled feminist movement.
  • There was a sharing and strengthening of skills amongst participants and tutors, both wrt [with respect to] sexuality and disability rights, but also in techniques of online information sharing and advocacy. This has widened the number of participants who feel able to confidently tutor and advocate via the Web, and who are able to see the benefits of this way of working in appropriate situations.

 

In addition to the impact upon participants, the course has also had an impact upon CREA, establishing disability as an ongoing aspect of the work it undertakes in the sexual rights arena. Examples of subsequent initiatives, in addition to supporting a second Disability, Sexuality, and Rights Online Institute in 2011 include: a conference on Violence against Marginalised Women, held in Nepal in 2011, addressing sex workers, lesbians, transwomen, and disabled women; research on violence against disabled women and other marginalised groups; support for research projects undertaken by disabled women in South Asia; liaison and support for a Mumbai-based media organisation, Point of View, in building a website on sexual and reproductive rights and health for disabled women; ongoing input to CREA’s Sexuality, Gender, and Rights Institutes in India and globally.”

—Janet Price, Resource Person, DSROI