People with intellectual disabilities have right to family
Being in relationship free from abuse, violence and coercion is the elementary thing, which should be provided for the people with intellectual disabilities.
There are currently 32,097 people with intellectual disabilities in Ukraine. However, the experts have voiced the problem of observance and implementation of their rights, particularly in the issue of reproductive health, for the first time, perhaps.
People with intellectual disabilities have limited access to information on reproductive health.
What are the obstacles?
One of the main obstacles is unwillingness of parents to provide information on sexual rights and reproductive health. Most of such persons live under excessive guardianship of their parents, so they are deprived of possibility to make their own decisions, their own choice. They cannot independently arrange their lives and they cannot understand their own feelings the more so.
The modern society is poorly informed about the problems and rights of people with intellectual disabilities. Such a person is stereotypically considered to be a kidult, who cannot bear responsibility for his family, cannot build lasting relationship. In addition, there is a prejudice that people with intellectual disabilities are bound to give birth to a sick child, and their marriage will cause society additional problems.
The parents are not ready to talk openly about sexual problems of their children and are not ready to perceive them as independent adult people.
The experts, who work in the institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, mainly do not have the skills to deal with this problem.
For example, we had the following situation: a health worker in the institution for people with intellectual disabilities entered the private room and saw a girl sitting on the lap of a boy, a wheelchair user. Her first reaction was to say they couldn’t do that. But her mother experience stopped her from such a reaction. After all, they do not do harm to anyone. She thought it could be the only way to be happy for them. Therefore, they should not be banned from expressing their feelings.
Satisfaction of sexual needs is important for physical and mental health of people with intellectual disabilities, but it requires special conditions such as available information, practical knowledge and skills, medical and psychological support.
Dissatisfaction of sexual needs of people with disabilities results in emotional stress, aggression, perplexity.
People with intellectual disabilities have low ability to satisfy their sexual needs. They don’t have their own private space. The boarding schools are divided into male and female. It’s even difficult to talk to the opposite sex, especially in the women’s boarding schools where the staff involves mostly women.
The obstacles to satisfy the sexual needs: low level of culture, lack of information, lack of awareness, lack of conditions for creating a family and satisfying the sexual needs. However, the main obstacle is, perhaps, a biased attitude of parents and other people to the problem of satisfying sexual needs.
What are the conditions to satisfy sexual needs?
The people with intellectual disabilities do not need any “special” conditions to exercise their right to family. First and foremost, it’s the possibility to get married, to create a family, to live independently. The additional conditions are setting up the social services to support such families and providing greater state financial assistance and medical support to families with intellectual disabilities.
The state should act as the guarantor of observance of rights of all citizens to exercise their right to healthy life and to housing.
Currently, the representatives of religious organizations do not consider the possibility of creating families by persons with intellectual disabilities. They believe that the family is responsibility, which can’t be assumed by a person with intellectual disabilities.
We need to inform the people with intellectual disabilities about their rights, structure and functions of the body, diseases, healthy lifestyle, means of contraception, responsibility for the relationship and so on.
The parents should be informed about the right of their children to marriage, get psychologically prepared for the fact that their children can have relationship. Meanwhile, the experts should be taught methods of conveying information, informed about the standards of delivery of social services.
Nadiya Mayorova, deputy executive director of the All-Ukrainian NGO “Coalition to Protect Rights of Disabled People and People with Intellectual Disabilities”
The excerpt is taken from her the speech at the conference “The right to love: reproductive health and rights of people with intellectual disabilities.”