PRESS RELEASE- WESTSIDE’s Anti-disability, Anti-wheelchair Policy Continues


 

WESTSIDE’s Anti-disability, Anti-wheelchair Policy Continues

 

It is estimated that 15% of the population of India is disabled. A large chunk of them are wheelchair bound. Being bonafide citizens of the nation, it is the duty of the government to take care of them like any other citizens. Though slow on the uptake, the government has been moving in to take the most basic steps beginning with ensuring that all public places like public transport, parks and commercial establishments are accessible to people with disabilities including people on wheelchairs.

 

However, an accident last evening (7th May, 2013) highlights the callous way in which both government laws and public opinions are overlooked and sidestepped by businesses.

 

Malini Chib, my daughter who despite her cerebral palsy has not let that hamper her life garnering two masters degree and writing a best-selling book (One Little Finger), had gone to the Westside store in Fort to do shopping for women’s apparel. Finding no lift for the floor leading to the women’s section, she told her friend: ‘Lets try the escalator’. What she did not realize is that no person on a wheelchair who has problems of balance should do this.

 

The result was expected. Both of them had a massive fall leading to cuts and bruises on Malini’s shoulder, waist and arms. Her friend got her back muscle pulled.

 

This would have just been an unfortunate accident had it not been for two things: one is the law that stipulates that such establishments make their place disabled friendly, and secondly the fact that five years back the ADAPT Rights Group, that works to ensure rights for people with disabilities, had carried out a protest demonstration highlighting this and other issues that goes against the interest of the community of people with disabilities. The demonstration was held to alert Westside to how their international stores were anti-disability. This was followed with lengthy letters written to them about the law and how they can make their place disabled friendly by constructing ramps and lifts for their floor upstairs.

 

Sadly, Westside has continued to blatantly and flagrantly flout the law. My daughter and her friend were lucky to get away with no permanent damage but I dread to think what could have happened. I dread to think what might happen to other people with disabilities that might walk into the store unwittingly. I dread to think of what must be happening to thousands of disabled people across the country in hundreds and thousands of such establishments which show such blatant antipathy towards the disabled population.

 

It is high time that the gravity of the issue be understood and addressed. It is high time that the people responsible in Westside for this travesty of justice be seriously warned so that it becomes a lesson to others concerned.

 

This is in the interest of 15% people of the nation and thus in the interest of the nation itself. 

 

–          Mithu Alur, Founder-Chairperson ADAPT – Able Disabled All People Together (formerly the Spastics Society of India)

 

 

Breaking the silence around disabled sexuality #mustread


Desexualised or hypersexualised because of their impairments, women with disabilities are denied the right to see themselves and be seen as independent sexual beings. Introducing a series on disability and sexuality byRicha Kaul Padte

 disabled sexuality

“I’d rather use my legs as wings” Source: Disability Culture

‘To be human is to be sexual’ – Winder

At first glance, this series may seem superfluous. Disability and sexuality doesn’t sound nearly half as important or pressing as disability and education, disability and employment rights, disability and healthcare, or disability and practically all the access issues that people with disabilities in India face on a daily basis. Sexuality belongs, perhaps, to the realm of afterthought – an added bonus when the ‘real stuff’ is sorted out. There are others to whom the issues may seem unconnected – sex and sexuality are often seen as belonging outside the parameters of the lives of the disabled. People with disabilities have more important things to worry about. Sex is not on their minds. And definitely not on the minds of disabled women. And on the mind of theIndian disabled woman? Not a chance.

But what if sexuality was more than simply sex? What if it had to do with what you feel when you look in the mirror; who you love and why; what your sexual orientation really is (despite what you are forced to tell people); the violences you have suffered in silence? Throughout the world women’s sexuality – in its all-encompassingWHO definition as thoughts, behaviours, attitudes, preferences and relationships that are influenced by a series of economic, social, psychological and cultural factors – is a topic shrouded in silence and secrecy. In a South Asian socio-cultural context where the sexualities of women are actively contained, controlled and oppressed – or passively ignored and denied – the repercussions for all women can be and often are deeply debilitating.  Constructed through images of advertising beauty, housewives producing the best meals, and always through a heterosexual male lens, Indian women find themselves living in a world where their sexuality struggles to find expression outside these frameworks. However, a life outside this framework does not necessarily mean a life of liberation. What about some of those women who aren’t held up to beauty standards or shaadi.com’s standards or any standards at all — not because they have escaped their chains, but because their chains are even deadlier — because they aren’t even considered to be in the gamebecause they aren’t considered to bewomen. Desexualised – or in the case of the mentally disabled, hypersexualised – because of their impairments, women with disabilities are denied the right to be sexual, and to see themselves and be seen as independent sexual beings.

Between 5 and 6% of the Indian population lives with an impairment (the social model of disability rights defines an impairment as the physical or mental handicap, and disability as the structural and societal barriersthat prevent an impaired person from living a full life). So with 70 million disabled Indians and a sex ratio that suggests that just under half of these 70 million people are girls or women, why is the subject of sex and the Indian disabled woman so hard to stomach? And furthermore, what are the far-reaching consequences of this indigestion?

Consistently framed within a discourse of charity, pity, or burden, and relegated to the status of ‘things’ to be ‘managed’, women with disabilities face disproportionate levels of sexual violence and abuse, suffer from low self-esteem and body image, and are given little to no sexual education (in a country where the levels and quality of sex education are practically negligible for even the nondisabled) under the belief that they cannot and will never have sexual partners. They consequently face a range of discriminatory practices and humiliating experiences from healthcare professionals, families and organisations that stem from similar myths and misconceptions about their sexuality, or lack thereof. However, what is changing faster than policies and attitudes are the sounds of resistance breaking through the silence around disabled sexuality – ie: sexuality that has very literally been disabled by society. Women from across the subcontinent – and the world – are bringing to the fore issues surrounding their sexualities. Demanding the right to be heard, accepted and actively included within larger discussions on sexuality and sexual rights, these women are activists, lawyers, educationists, counsellors, or simply individuals who seek to rupture the systemic silence around the rights and violations of their sexual selves. They are demanding conversations about sexuality through which first and foremost, a disabled woman is not seen for her cane, her wheelchair, or her crutch, but as a woman – just like you or me.

This series aims to explore and highlight the multifaceted arena of disability and sexuality through the narratives, voices, and perspectives of women with disabilities. It tries to reframe the discourse around sex, beauty, relationships, mental health and violence, and believes that through a redefining and expanding of what these terms have come to mean, all women – irrespective of disability -­- can deeply benefit. It seeks to further the whispers and murmurings of a powerful dialogue, and encourages others to join in.

On her blog, an activist and writer who calls herself Wheelchair Dancer writes of her experiences in coming to terms with her disability. After a long struggle – both personal and political, or somewhere within the always already mixed arena of the two – she declares: “I’m here. I’m disabled. And I do it. Yes, I do. Even in this body that you cannot imagine anyone [doing it with] and loving.”  This series asks you to dance with her.

(Richa Kaul Padte is a freelance writer and feminist activist living between Bombay and Goa. She was the co-author and project coordinator of www.sexualityanddisability.org, an online initiative by Point of View and CREA)

Infochange News & Features, September 2012

 

Online essay competition on disability issues


A collection of pictograms. Three of them used...

A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sruti disAbility Rights Center invites you to join an online essay competition.

Topics:

1.     My response to a wheelchair.

2.    When the bus conductor denied Nagma, a young blind girl, a journey to her destination…

3.    Inclusive Education for children with disabilities in the post Right to Education Act

2009 era.

4.    Bollywood’s attempt to mainstream the marginalized.

Word count: 3000 (upper limit)

Deadline: 10th May, 2012

Date of announcement of winners: 30th May 2012

  • All applicants must mention their name, age, and postal address at the end of the essay.
  • 3 top essays will be awarded attractive prizes.
  • Best essays will be published by Sruti and used as advocacy material for disability rights.

For entries and queries, please mail to sruti.inclusion@gmail.com

For more information, please call Proma Basu Roy at 09748856474.

Having Sex: Mythbusting


Mythbusting

‘To be human is to be sexual’ Winder, 1983

Sexuality External Website that opens in a new window is often equated with just sex. Actually, it’s much broader and also encompasses gender identities and roles External Website that opens in a new window sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. It is influenced by psychological, economic, political, social, and biological factors. Sexuality is a natural and healthy aspect of living, and it’s a part of who you are.

Women with disabilities are rarely seen as sexual beings, however. This leads to a range of myths and misconceptions around their sexuality, which are debunked below.

Question1 Myth: Women with disabilities don’t need sex.

To most nondisabled people, sexuality and disability seem to be unconnected terrains – disabled women’s sexual desires are by and large assumed to be non-existent. However, the reality is that women with disabilities are sexual beings with sexual fantasies, feelings and aspirations like anyone else. They are unable to express their sexuality fully not so much because of a disability but because of the assumption that they are not sexual. Other barriers include restrictions on their mobility, negative societal attitudes and the lack of educational, entertainment, social and health services and rights that other people have. (Source: ‘Sexuality and Disability in the Indian Context’ TARSHI working paperExternal Website that opens in a new window)

Women with disabilities – particularly those with physical disabilities – are often seen as childlike, and thought about in terms of ‘care’ or ‘protection’, thus rendering them sexless. However, all human beings are sexual, no matter if, when, how, or with whom we choose to express or not express it.

Question2 Myth: Women with disabilities are not sexually attractive.

Sins InvalidExternal Website that opens in a new window, a performance on sex, beauty and disability, poses many powerful questions: ‘Who is sexy? Who is sexual? Who is sexually desirable? Are the people that society designates “beautiful” really sexier or more sexual than people who get labeled “plain”? What about older people, heavier people? What about people with disabilities? Are these people fully sexual human beings even though they don’t show up in movies, on TV, or in advertising? What happens to all of us when we write off huge sections of the population as non-sexual or sexually undesirable?’

What attracts someone is unique to each individual, and is caused by an unpredictable mix of things, including personality, looks, timing, sexual fantasies, etc. However, because we’re surrounded by false ideals of beautylike models with impossibly thin and upright bodies, it can be hard to start thinking of people who don’t fit into that category as ‘beautiful’. Attraction is, above all else, a connection between two people, and imposed beauty standards may actually have nothing at all to do with it.

Question3 Myth: Women with disabilities are ‘oversexed.’

Since women with disabilities are seen as ‘childlike’ and aren’t supposed to be sexual, any sexual desire they express is seen as perverted or ‘too much’. This doesn’t mean that they have disproportionate sexual desires compared to nondisabled women, but that because they are not meant to express this aspect of themselves, when they do, it’s seen as a problem.

This myth is especially strong when it comes to girls or women who are mentally disabled. Since people living with mental disabilities may not have been taught sexual norms – masturbation is a private thing, your sexual body parts should remain covered around other people, etc – they may express their sexuality in socially inappropriate ways. However, this is more likely a result of a lack of information than that of an ‘oversexed’ mind or body.

Seeing girls and women with disabilities as oversexed is dangerous because it exposes them to sexual abuse under the guise that they ‘enjoy’ it. No one deserves an unwanted sexual encounter, and this includes people with disabilities.

Question4 Myth: Women with disabilities have more important needs than sex.

We tend to see certain needs as more basic or fundamental (eating, bathing, sleeping) than others (communication with others, sexual desires, intellectual development). This divide is sharper in the case of girls or women with disabilities. If a woman needs help to have her ‘basic’ needs fulfilled, her ‘other’ needs are seen as irrelevant.

In reality, any person experiences various needs at the same time. For example, the desire to eat when you are hungry may not be any greater or less than the desire to talk to someone when you are lonely. Similarly, sexual desires cannot simply be seen as ‘secondary’ to more ‘fundamental’ needs, whether or not someone has a disability.

Question5 Myth: Girls living with disabilities don’t need sexuality education.

This myth is a branch of a much wider one – that no one needs sexuality education. Sex Ed is often misunderstood as teaching children how to have sex or ‘permitting experimentation’. In reality, sexuality education encompasses a lot more than the mechanics of sex. Age-appropriate sexuality education looks at how teenagers feel about their bodies, love, sex, relationshipsExternal Website that opens in a new window, and protection from abuse and violence.

Some people also believe that sex education goes against Indian cultureExternal Website that opens in a new window The reality, however, is this: as long as human beings have sex, we need sexuality education no matter what culture we belong to. Culture, in any case, is dynamic and evolving. Practices that have previously been upheld as part of ‘Indian culture’ – such as sati and child marriage – are now seen not just as harmful cultural practices, but as criminal offences.

Girls with disabilities are most often denied the little bit of sex education that their peers receive. This is embedded in other myths- that women with disabilities don’t have sexual desires, that no one will want to have sex with them (so they won’t be subjected to abuse), and that they can’t have ‘real sex’ anyway (so there’s no point in showing them how). In reality, sex education can empower all young women with the knowledge and information to have safe and pleasurable sex, prevent STIs including HIV, stop unwanted pregnancies, and protect themselves from abusive sexual partners.

Question6 Myth: Women who live with disabilities can’t have ‘real’ sex.

Many people think that sex takes place only when a man puts his penis into a woman’s vagina. In reality, people have sex in many different ways that aren’t generally shown in popular media or frequently discussed. Kissing, touching, masturbating and oral sex are all sexual activities, even though they aren’t included in the ‘standard’ definition of sex.

The myth of a ‘real’ or ‘correct’ way to have sex might lead women with disabilities to believe that because they can’t see, feel, or move their bodies in certain ways, sex isn’t for them. But sex is for everyone, even though the mechanics of it can vary. There are no rules governing what sex can or cannot be, except that it should involve consent External Website that opens in a new window and safety. Sexual acts don’t have to look, sound, smell or feel like anything apart from what works for the people who are involved.

Question7 Myth: Sex must be spontaneous.

Sex is often depicted – in movies to books to pornography – as two people naturally falling into each other’s arms within seconds of making eye contact. This leads people to feel that any amount of planning means that it’s no longer ‘natural’, so it doesn’t count as sex. But in reality, sex often does not happen in a completely unplanned way. Whether the build-up involves flirting with someone in a crowded room, ‘setting the mood’ with some music and candles, checking if the object of your desire shares your sexual orientation, or discussing how your disability means you may need a few extra pillows or specific positioning, sex is always a process of communication. And the idea that it can happen without thinking, talking or planning is questionable. Women with disabilities may need to take some extra factors into account before having a sexual encounter with someone. She may need to think about the times of day when pain or tiredness are less of a problem, put a waterproof cover on the bed in case her bladder leaks, or may simply need to ensure that she has the privacy she desires. However, this doesn’t make the sex women with disabilities have any less ‘natural’ or ‘real’ than those who don’t have similar considerations.

Question8 Myth: Women with disabilities should not have children.

Since women with disabilities are not expected to be sexual, neither are they expected to reproduce. A report entitled ‘Women and Girls with Disabilities: Defining the Issues’External Website that opens in a new windowstates, ‘Keeping us genderless by discounting us as women and as sexual beings helps to prevent us from reproducing, which keeps us harmless to society. And, once we are categorized as non-breeders, we are discarded as socially useless.’

It is believed that ‘disability breeds disability’, and that a disabled woman will give birth to a disabled child. However, only a small percentage of disabilities are hereditary, and these don’t always pass on to the next generation. External Website that opens in a new window. In most cases, a disabled women and a nondisabled woman both have an equal chance of giving birth to a disabled (or much more likely, a nondisabled) child. It is also believed that a woman with a disability will be unable to care for her child. This is merely a perception. Women with disabilities can raise children-like everyone else, they may need a little help at times. Look at this websiteExternal Website that opens in a new window for parents with disabilities for more information

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