Sexuality and Disability: Freedom of Sexual Expression in the NDIS

“Sexual freedom is about choice. It’s the freedom to say no as well as say yes.” – Lillian B. Rubin.

While on the surface this may seem like another blog on freedom of expression and sexuality its aim is to start the conversation on sexuality and disability in hopes to ease some stigma attached to this topic.

As with any taboo topic it is our behavioural custom to be uncomfortable and hush when it comes to sexuality and expression – understanding this, and in recognition of the multitude of other themes and discussions attached to this premise I want to say this post is purely focused on the notion that all people are entitled to the love and intimacy.

Activism in the disability sphere has a long-standing silence when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Individuals with disabilities are commonly viewed as asexual due to a societal prevalence for the heteronormative idea of sex and what is considered natural.

asexual [ ey-sek-shoo-uh l ]

adjective
  1. Biology:
    • a. having no sex or sexual organs.
    • b.independent of sexual processes, especially not involving the union of male and female germ cells.
  2. Free from sexual desires or sexuality

This view is driven by lack of education and knowledge due to the limited exposure society has to sexuality and disability leading to narrow understanding of these issues. People with disabilities are often denied access to knowledge about sexuality, sexual behaviour and services leading to their sexual marginalisation.

With reforms such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and continual updates to Anti Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation, people with disabilities are gaining an increase in control and agency of their lives. With this recognition of choice and control, campaigns and precedent setting legal cases are emerging in recognition of people with disabilities to have equal rights for sexual pleasure, intimacy, love, friendship, relationships and sexual and reproductive choices.

The confirmation from the Federal Court in May upholding the ruling that the use of a trained sex therapist is a “reasonable and necessary” NDIS support, cements the fact (argued by the NDIS Participants lawyers) that governments have an obligation to ensure that people with disability are supported to live ordinary lives equal to the rest of the community and are entitled to supports that enabled this.

This ruling is only a start – While the idea that sex is necessary for intimacy and love has been used to argue for commercial sexual services the broader vision and movement should put focus on increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to build respectful relationships, and increase opportunities to intimacy. Government agencies need to provide information and programs about rights and health in sex and relationships for people with a disability.

Feelings, behaviours and actions connected to sex and sexuality can worry carers and family members. It is vital to remember that sexuality is central to self-identity and wellbeing.

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