Breaking taboos: Sex for the disabled

Breaking taboos: Sex for the disabled
A man shares his feelings for a woman at a dating event for disabled people in Changsha, Hunan province, on Monday. The event attracted more than 300 disabled people and brought eight couples together.

CHINA - Song Yuhong was born with spina bifida, a congenital condition that left her in a wheelchair. But that has not stopped the 41-year-old from realizing her dream of becoming a mother.

"The most frequent question I'm asked is, How can you still have sex and have babies if you are paralysed?" said Song, who has two girls, aged 3 and 1.

"There's still so little understanding. Yes, of course we can. We need it, just as you do!"

Song, who lives in Hebei province's Shijiazhuang, is far from a typical case, however.

According to Xie Yan, a disabled people's rights campaigner, sex for the disabled has long been a taboo subject in China.

He estimated that more than 50 per cent of disabled people do not have any regular sex life.

"Many of them feel unattractive, less worthy of sexual partners," said Xie, who is founder and CEO of One Plus One Beijing Disabled Persons' Cultural Development Center. "They feel they can't live up to the idealized image and expectations society has set."

A 2012 national census by the China Disabled Persons' Federation found that the marriage rate for disabled people was 63.9 per cent, compared with 83.1 per cent for the population as a whole.

"What's worse," Xie said, "is that they are deprived completely of sex education, leaving them vulnerable to sexual abuse."

To shed light on the topic, Xie's NGO and Handicap International will give 10 disabled people an opportunity to recount their sexual experiences on Thursday. They will share a Beijing stage in front of an audience of about 200 people.

"Sex education has always been lacking in China, not to mention for the disabled," said sexual health expert Fang Gang at Beijing Forestry University. "Most people think that the disabled don't have the need or ability, so why bother educating them about sex."

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