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Sexuality Policy

Policy Issue

"Sexuality" is a major life function that is an integral part of relating to others, building self-esteem and building social relationships. The ability to make choices related to sexuality and act on those choices by people with developmental disabilities contributes to healthy community living.

The sexual "rules" for people with developmental disabilities imposed by society are often quite different than those imposed on the rest of society. There are many false assumptions, myths and stereotypes that have historically surrounded people with developmental disabilities and today, continue to influence their right to sexual expression. Society as a whole is still not comfortable with open discussions on sexuality, and this discomfort increases considerably when the issue shifts to the sexuality of people with developmental disabilities.

The result is that most people with developmental disabilities do not receive sufficient education and support to develop healthy sexuality and to protect them from abuse, exploitation, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Lack of information or experience with the personal and social aspects of human sexuality is one of the key reasons why some people may engage in inappropriate sexual behaviour. People with developmental disabilities sometimes lead lives that are lonely and frustrating because of other people’s fears that they will be sexually inappropriate.

As well as not being given information, education or acknowledgement about their sexuality, many people with developmental disabilities experience various efforts to repress any kind of sexual expression, including:

  • actions and policies that prohibit or punish any type of sexual expression;
  • segregation;
  • being discouraged from forming relationships;
  • diversion from activities that are even remotely sexual; and
  • limiting or discontinuing certain kinds of outings or activities.

Purpose

  • To ensure people with developmental disabilities are supported to experience and express their sexuality.
  • To eliminate the false assumptions concerning the sexuality of people with developmental disabilities.

Guiding Principles

  • People with developmental disabilities have sexual feelings, needs and identities and have the right to privacy and sexual expression.
  • People with developmental disabilities have the right to develop consenting intimate relationships, live with a partner or to marry.
  • People with developmental disabilities have the right to have their sexual orientation respected.

Background

Sexuality is a complex and challenging subject area, especially with respect to people with developmental disabilities for whom sexuality has often been denied, ignored or repressed.

Historically families, professionals and policy makers have erroneously believed that people with developmental disabilities are not able to make responsible choices in regard to sexuality issues. Consequently they have been denied access to sexuality education, freedom to establish loving relationships and freedom of sexual expression. Attempts by persons with disabilities to express their sexuality have often been discouraged and interpreted as being socially inappropriate.

Lack of awareness and information about sexuality leaves people with developmental disabilities vulnerable to sexual abuse. Research has indicated a higher incidence of sexual abuse of people with disabilities and that the majority of sexual abusers are well known to the victim.

Policy Statements

  1. People with developmental disabilities have the right to:
  • be provided with information and education on human sexuality;
  • express their sexuality;
  • establish relationships;
  • marry or live together;
  • have children; and
  • make choices in all areas of human sexuality.

 2.  People with developmental disabilities have the right to be supported to access sexual and reproductive health care
 3.  Care providers have the responsibility to ensure that people with developmental disabilities have access to sexual and reproductive health care.
 4.  Care providers have the responsibility to deliver supports and services in a way that respects a person’s sexuality.