“The only disability in life is a bad attitude” Scott Hamilton
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Gifted differently: Sexuality and disability
Today I remember one great lady that I know. She was crying inconsolably, and many could barely understand what she was saying. This was unlike her usual bubbly smiling self. She was in pain. Eventually someone deciphered what she was crying about. We understood it then, she had been forced to have an abortion and she was bitter about this. She is deaf; she cannot hear or speak hence the difficulties in understanding what she was trying to communicate. She was not born with the condition but it developed after childhood illness hence she has never known speech. Her situation was complicated and I could tell where her family was coming from. She had two more children and did not have any gainful engagement. It was hard bringing up her children. The other element of her story is that it was never clear if she had been a willing participant or she had been raped. Apparently the perpetrator was known but nothing had ever been done. Or was he a perpetrator or was she a willing participant? Did her family ever entertain the thought that she had sexual feelings and willingly had sex with this man? What about her, did she want another baby? She was not asked. It is evident that she loves her children to death! Touch her child and she could kill you, and I mean this literarily as some incidence had demonstrated how far she could go to protect her children. But this did not matter, nobody asked her, or advised her about some safety precautions. They made a decision to terminate her pregnancy.
What rights to persons living with disabilities have on sexuality? ALL.
One can never fully understand something until you face a circumstance that is similar. You get to realize that nobody can actually feel your pain much as they try. When I got into an incident on August 21st this year, it led realization of just what being incapacitated means. I fractured my ankle and from the time I first left hospital in Yei South Sudan to the house then to Nairobi vie Entebbe I somehow came to get a glimpse of what persons living with disabilities go through in accessing the public utilities. While I received a lot of support from friends and strangers during this journey, I could not help noticing how the world is not fully set to accommodate this. I noticed how insensitive to physical disabilities the facilities are. I noted how steep stair cases were. I recall while waiting to board the flight in Entebbe the flight staff requested the other passengers to wait as I and some women who had small babies boarded first. The crowd surged forward and we sat back to wait for them to board. I could not blame them, the flight had delayed and one gets the feeling of arriving faster if your boarder first. I have spent more than 3 months not able to be my normal self with support from family and friends, yet the journey can only be travelled not imagined.
The experience is nothing compared to the experiences that those living with disabilities face. More so the invisible forms of violations that are informed by the social beliefs as to what they do or do not deserve.
On this 9th Day of the 16 Days of Activism, I remember the persons living with disability on the International Day of the Disabled. While women world over experience more forms of gender based violence, women living with disability experience unique forms of violence. My Masters Degree thesis focused on challenges that women with disabilities face in accessing sexual and reproductive health services. This included how they are treated when they go to hospitals when pregnant, or to access other related services. I still recall some of the stories shared by the women. The social stigma is incomprehensible.
What comes to mind when you see a disabled pregnant woman?
I asked several people that question and most answered that the first thought was that either the woman has been raped or she is very careless to allow pregnancy while disabled. At the most basic level they are denied the right to sexual expression, bringing up families etc. some shared facing physical, sexual and economic violence to various degrees. One woman was almost having her baby exchanged in hospital and it was only because of her assertive nature that it did not happen. She had albinism and gave birth to a normal colored baby while another woman in the same hospital gave birth to an albino child. Some were left to give birth on the floor since they could not access the bed and nobody was willing to help.
The experiences shared were touching and inhuman.
On this Word Disability day, I remember women and men who have suffered various forms of gender based violence that has been made worse by their disability. I remember many women and even men who have been disabled by gender based violence; the many who are denied their right to self expression.
It is about our attitude, not the other person’s ability or lack of.