People with disabilities are considered easy targets by sexual predators – that is why their numbers are disproportionately high among the victims of rape and sexual harassment in Sri Lanka.
And it doesn’t help that they have limited access to basic information and understanding about human sexuality.
While the local school curriculum includes age appropriate elements of sex education, it’s been found that teachers are reluctant to teach these lessons.
Hans Billimoria, who leads the non-profit Grassrooted Trust and has carried out several lessons and workshops for students in reproductive health education, said at a panel discussion: “It’s not a lack of reproductive health education but the problem lies with teaching the subject.”
Instead of waiting for culture and sensitivities to evolve, Grassrooted Trust has stepped in to fill that void.
Comprehensive Reproductive Health Education for people with disabilities
The knowledge gap is even bigger for people with disabilities. For the hearing and visually impaired, access to this information is more limited. In an earlier post, we wrote about how the hearing impaired suffered due to the lack of information, and how concerned groups and government agencies have stepped into create a sign language glossary to ensure that they have access to a comprehensive guide to reproductive health.
But what about the visually impaired?
Along with the launch of the Sign Language Glossary, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) recently launched a mobile application that’s packed with information from on gender-based violence, reproductive rights, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and sexuality.
What’s more, the ABLE app will also direct users to an STI clinic closest to their location.
By double-tapping the phone, the application will go into voice mode and read out the information and guide users through the sections – making the contents accessible for those who are hearing impaired.
Here’s a run through of what ABLE app offers.
This is a bit of a controversial topic in Sri Lanka, but regardless of what your opinion is on the subject, I’m sure you will agree that inaccurate information can be confusing and even harmful.
ABLE provides a basic understanding of sex and sexuality. It can help the user tell myth from fact, and help them make the right choices about their sexual health.
Sexuality is about much more than just sex
Delving a bit deeper into the subject, the application makes it clear that ‘sexuality’ isn’t simply about whether you are male or female. It’s about how you feel about your sex, and how the society’s stereotypes aren’t always real.
Why do people have sex?
To some, this question may seem too basic. But for an adolescent trying to understand what the changes in their physical appearance and their sudden desires mean, it can be quite frustrating when they can’t find answers.
ABLE explains that some people have sex to have children. Other reasons include expressing love, commitment, caring, experience physical pleasure, and at times to prove their masculinity or femininity.
But of course, not all of these are good reasons. The application goes on to describe the reasons that aren’t right — and makes it clear that if you are being hurt then it is certainly not right.
These are just some of the areas that ABLE covers. The application is a valuable source of information – helping the user understand if they are ready for sex. It talks about gender-based violence, puberty and pregnancy as well.
To explore ABLE for yourself, go on over to the Android or Apple app store on your smartphone, and download the application for free. Hopefully, in time, when smart phones are available to all, the impact of ABLE will be felt islandwide.
(This article was originally published in www.kiyanna.lk. That site is now changed to www.ivoice.lk owned by SDJF and supported by UNFPA)