Workshops by Rising Flame seek to create a space for disabled youth to talk about consent, sexuality
Globally the #MeToo movement has played a role in highlighting just how widespread sexual harassment is. More importantly, it has underlined the need to understand consent, and to have conversations around sex and sexuality to create an environment to practice healthy intimate partner relationships. Absent from these conversations, however, both in India and worldwide, are the voices of people from the disabled community.
Towards enabling this, Rising Flame, the Mumbai-based NGO working for people with disabilities, with a focus on women and youth, is launching a series of workshops in different Indian cities to spread awareness about consent, relationships and related topics that rarely get talked about.
Titled “Naa Main Naa Hain: Understanding Consent, Love and Violence in Intimate Relationships”, the workshops are the brainchild of Nidhi Goyal, Founder-Director, Rising Flame and Srinidhi Rghavan, Senior Consultant with the NGO.
Srinidhi and I were looking at the #MeToo campaign playing out here in India and we found that the voices of the disability community were totally missing. We have worked with a range of people across disabilities about love, romance and sexuality and with Valentine’s Day coming up, we decided this was a good time to talk about love and romance, which is not spoken about in India or anywhere else. – Nidhi Goyal, Founder-Director, Rising Flame
The first workshop is in Mumbai on 9 February in partnership with the Blind Graduates Forum of India (BGFI), a non-profit working for the empowerment of people who are blind and low vision and Tanya Computer Centre, which runs computer classes for visually impaired people. The approach as Goyal puts it, will be not to give out “gyaan“, but to engage participants in conversations.
“Srinidhi speaks three to four languages and so do I, so we break down popular stereotypes using podcasts, Bollywood songs and dialogues, etc. The idea to have a conversation kind of workshop that breaks down gender stereotypes”.
Some of the topics that will be covered include the importance of consent, intimacy and setting boundaries, how to approach, or propose to someone you have a crush on , to name a few.
“We are expecting about 45 participants and we strongly feel there is a need for this”, says Sadaf Khan, who is a core team member of BGFI. “When we discussed this with our team, they thought it was a brilliant idea. We expect there will be a frank discussion as our members are quite mature and open minded”.
The workshops will be held for a mixed audience, an approach that has been found to be effective in many parts of the world to talk about issues like sexual harassment and consent. In the absence of formal education on such matters, such informal approaches help to provide an ethical framework for young people to make decisions.
Tanya Balsara, Founder, Tanya Computer Centre, the third partner in the Mumbai workshop, believes there is a critical need for such interventions for disabled youth, who find themselves doubly marginalized.
“We have been running a computer centre for visually impaired people for the last 13 years and these conversations are important because I don’t think many of ours boys and girls are aware of such things. We did a workshop with Nidhi and her team about sexuality and disability two years ago and we got a good response. The aim is to build awareness, and this is a good approach to talk about love, sex, romance and relationships”.
Many things about the lives of people with disabilities, especially girls and women, are taboo in India. There are not enough role models either, which makes workshops like these critical at a time when many in the community are trying to push forward.