Understanding the sexual health & rights of youth with disabilities of Assam

According to the 2011 Census, there are about 1,46,430 youths between the age of 10 and 29 living with disabilities in Assam; although activists claim that these numbers are higher in reality. In India, where rights of people with disabilities is yet to be acknowledged and sex is still considered by many as a taboo, sexual health and sexual rights of people with disabilities is far away from the discourse. In the case of North East India, sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights have not even figured into mainstream discussions among the general youth, let alone youth with disabilities. As a result, sexual health and sexual rights of youth with disabilities is very far from being considered an issue to be concerned about.

Photo: Teachers teaching the disabled students about health and hygien

In order to understand Sexual Health and Sexual Rights (SHSR) related issues amongst youth with disabilities, we have carried a baseline study to identify the key trends and gaps around SHSR being faced by the youths. The baseline study was conducted collaboratively with a few Community Based Organizations (CBOs) based in Guwahati, Tezpur, Jorhat and Duliajan of Assam. We trained data collectors and distributed questionnaire which were used to collect data from youths with disabilities, their parent/caregivers/guardians and teachers in these four towns/cities across Assam covering geo-political and social conditions. Using the data collected, we are now identifying the problems faced by the youths and the collected baseline data will be published in a report which will be used to disseminate awareness at a state level revolving around the issue at hand.

Photo – Interviewers interviewing the disabled students

In the coming months, we plan to develop a training module based on the conducted study which will be used to train NGO workers and teachers on the encompassing issues revolving Youths with disabilities. We are then looking to train 30 NGO representatives and teachers on SHSR issues and these 30 NGO representatives and teachers will further conduct trainings in the project areas to disseminate what they learn. Furthermore, we plan to carry out a statewide advocacy campaign to further disseminate the study results, share the training module and influence key stakeholders to work on enhancing SHSR of youths with disabilities.
In this manner, we plan to identify a process in which sexual health and sex education can be enhanced within the discourse regarding youth with disabilities and thus build a better environment for them.