Disability, intimacy and parenthood

Deconstructing ‘mutually exclusive’ constructs

Authored by: Joanne Neille

The Routledge Handbook of Disability in Southern Africa

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138242333
eBook ISBN: 9781315278650
Adobe ISBN:


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Myths and stereotypes regarding the sexual lives of disabled people are rife, often being viewed as eternal children, asexual, or unable to inhibit their sexual impulses. This chapter explores the experiences of disabled people in the establishment and maintenance of long-term intimate relationships and their experiences of pregnancy and child-rearing. Narrative interviews were conducted with 30 adults with a variety of disabilities in rural South Africa. A thematic content analysis was used for data analysis. Findings reveal that contextual and stereotypical beliefs regarding sexuality among disabled people, together with a high incidence of violence, negatively impact on identity development. These results highlight the need for contextually relevant information, which supports freedom of choice, while at the same time protecting disabled people from becoming victims of violence. The chapter therefore argues for a need to evaluate ways in which human rights policies are put into practice and the extent to which they relate to contextual beliefs pertaining to disability, intimacy and parenthood.

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