‘I’ Column - Dinesh Gupta
... on how sexual rights affect one personally, and how they are affirmed and/or violated in one’s local cultural setting.
I am a person with cerebral palsy. There are more than 17 million people in the world who are referred to as ‘physically handicapped’. Personally, I prefer the term ‘physically challenged’.
As physically challenged people, it is the socio-economic hurdles that we face, that deter us the most. The ‘noble’ or ‘good-hearted’ people in society usually have a so-called nicer approach towards us – they treat us ‘with sympathy’. What we are looking for is not sympathy, but empathy. Although there is a growing realization on the part of the government as well as civil society that people with disabilities need equal opportunities, there are certain issues which I feel need to be addressed on a social platform rather than in the parliament. We are able to achieve some extent of social participation and success with our determination and courage, and we start analyzing everything – from our ideas of success to the determination that makes our stories an ‘achievement’.
There are problems that seriously work against our courage and patience. For example, the fact that people with disabilities are not considered sexual although we also have sexual desires and fantasies like any other human being. When children enter adulthood, they acquire a sense of sexual self, in the process of growing up. In a similar way, people with disabilities also develop a sense of their sexual self and their bodies. After all it is a normal part of growing up. However, in India, young people are hardly ever encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings related to sexuality.
My desire for sexual intimacy may sound weird to many people but this is my reality. I do not want to live only with my parents throughout my life. I want to be independent and also desire a special person to share the joys and sorrows of my life with, or talk about the mental asylum in our minds that is often created from stress and ‘physical’ fatigue. I would like to get married and have a sexual life, but my parents do not feel that I should get married. I have tried to bring it up with them, but they are very resistant to the idea. Sexual relationships outside of marriage are still taboo in our society. And, even if they were okay, there are very few social spaces for people with disabilities to meet and have intimate relationships.
How do I then seek sexual satisfaction? Because of cerebral palsy, I find it difficult to sexually stimulate myself. I have often considered using sexual aids. However, in India, we do not have easy access to them and even if they may be available, my limited mobility makes it even more difficult to access them. My brother travels abroad sometimes, and I have often wondered if I could ask him to get me such an aid, but I also wonder what he would think about me, if I do so. Can I go to a sex worker to seek sexual services? I have considered that as well. But, I am unsure if a sex worker would treat me well and with sensitivity. What do I do?
As any other human being, I too have the need for physical and mental pleasure, but there is always a denial of the sexuality of physically challenged people. The situation is frustrating and I wish for a change in the future.
Dinesh Gupta is the Chairman and Founder of Friends organisation, a Trust that works towards self-dependence of people with disabilities and their integration into society. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org