From forced sterilisation to sexual abuse, young women and men with disabilities are much more likely to have their sexual and reproductive health rights violated than other people.
However despite the increased risks they face, young people with disabilities are also much less likely to get the sexual health education that they need. Sometimes this is because well-meaning caregivers fail to realise the sexual desires and needs of people with disabilities, Malin Kvitvaer who works for the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) told IPS.
“They see only the deafness and forget that there is a young person there too,” said Kvitvaer who works on a special project aimed at improving sexual education in sign language and is herself deaf. Parents and caregivers can forget that young people with disabilities also have questions about their bodies and thinks about sex, just like any other teenager, said Kvitvaer.
Even where young people with disabilities do have access to sexual health education, it can be incomplete or inadequate due to access barriers, Kvitvaer added.
“Young people with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and face greater barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and education,” -- Leyla Sharafi, UNFPA.
“There are many instances where the teacher, not being fluent in sign language, does not know how to teach sexuality education in sign language and either teaches a very compromised version, or skips it altogether,” she said.
Communication barriers can have an even greater impact, when abusers take advantage of the fact that it is harder for young Deaf people to report abuse. “In the history of the Deaf community there is a history of young Deaf girls – boys too, but mostly girls – who were subjected to sexual abuse by the adult men around them, such as teachers, Deaf priests and so on.”