Disabled denied sexual rights

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A physically disabled man enters a supermarket and asks the woman at the counter for a pack of condoms. The teller is shocked and turns to her co-workers to ask them if she should sell the man condoms.

The disabled man cannot stomach the ‘mini conference’ being held to determine whether he should be sold condoms or not. Embarrassed, he walks away without his much needed commodity.

What could have transpired after he fails to get the protection he needed could only be left to imagination. 

This touching anecdote narrated by an officer within the Office of the President (OP) disability unit, left throngs of people who attended the Botswana Society for Human Development (BSHD) special education workshop disheartened.

The workshop was held at the University of Botswana on Saturday. It is just one of the numerous and untold battles that people with disability faces as they go about life.

Coordinator of the disability division, Thomas Motingwa said it is unfortunate that some members of our society still treat People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs), as second-class citizens. He said the prevalence perception is that they do not engage in romantic relationships, which is in fact untrue. “This makes the relationship between disability, HIV/AIDS and poverty a very extreme one and difficult to tackle,” he said. 

Motingwa further said the situation is exacerbated by lack of inclusive informational and educational material targeted at the multifaceted disabilities. He described disability as a double burden for women due to the fact that women without disability are having it hard already. Motingwa said it was important to have intensified efforts to empower women living with disabilities given the double stigma that they are faced with. “Women with disabilities still experience double stigma and the time is now for them to be empowered so that they enjoy their right,” he said.

Motingwa stressed that for women the situation was peculiar.  “If those considered normal women can put on their stilettos and convene a high level rights meet in Beijing, what about that woman with hearing impairment in a far off corner of this country?” he asked. Motingwa however commended government for showing commitment to strive to address challenges facing people living with disability. He urged for accelerated education on the different forms of disability. “Imagine how much stronger the world would be if we were aware of the different disabilities,” he said. The rights of persons with disabilities in Botswana and around the world would be respect, protected and fulfilled, he added. Motingwa said people with disabilities would have plenty opportunities they deserve to generate ideas and inspire others.

“We have an obligation to work harder to demystify disabilities and weed out negative attitudes so that we can have a nation where PLWDs have equal opportunities like the rest of the citizens,” he said.

The objective of the workshop was to promote objective disability awareness in Botswana and practical solutions to pertinent challenges that PLWDs face.

The NGO publicity secretary said the forum was a result of the worrisome status quo of disability awareness among Botswana citizens and concerned around invisible disabilities, as well as to promote a culture where targeted interventions are designed for peculiar disabilities.  The event covered a wide range of topics such as learning disabilities, HIV/AIDS and disabilities, as well as disability etiquette.

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