“Sex assistants” for the disabled

- The Walloon minister of health wants more clarity regarding sexual assistance for the handicapped.

- She has announced the establishment of an information and training center to offer guidance to care workers.

- A directory of “approved” sex workers will be made available.

The idea of providing a better legal framework to sexual assistance for handicapped individuals was already floated by the Walloon ministry of health in 2010. But since the matter was seen as sensitive at the time, mainly because it involved sex workers, the consultation with social service representatives has taken a considerable amount of time.

 

After two years of discussion, the Walloon Agency for the Integration of Handicapped People (AWIPH), heads of agencies, care workers and psychologists recently completed a report of which the conclusions were passed on to Eliane Tillieux (Socialist Party) in July. From this report, two projects have emerged. The first consists of extending the reach of the Flemish non-profit organization Aditi, an information and support center concerned with the sexuality of the disabled, to Belgium in its entirety. Or, alternatively, to draw inspiration from its model and create a similar French-speaking entity, something which does not as yet exist.

 

“It’s a resources center where agencies and institutions can find tools that will help them to better manage the emotional and sexual needs of the handicapped,” explains Tillieux, the minister of health and social work. “In this daily support service, care workers would also be invited to take training courses and attend awareness sessions.” The project does have one slightly daring aspect to it: the future resources center could offer willing care facilities a directory of “reliable” sex workers.

 

“Why not! I’m not against the idea of creating a kind of ’label of quality‘ for prostitutes who show significant awareness toward handicapped people and who would like to work hand-in-hand with institutions,” she continues.

 

Sex life charter

On which criteria would such a label be based? Aditi has apparently already established ground rules, says Fabienne Cornet, coordinator of the FLCPF family planning center’s “Sexuality and the Handicapped” project. “The prostitute must agree to spend a bit more time with a handicapped person than she does with her regular clients. Generally, we ask for a minimum of an hour. She must be particularly aware that people with a malformation or muscular spasms, or persons who are psychotic or autistic might need a different kind of physical contact.”

 

The second part of the project involves the drawing-up of a “sex life charter”, aimed at care workers and parents, for whom the sexuality of their handicapped child is a difficult subject to broach, and can even be a source of anxiety. “It’s about establishing a list of general services, a list that will be constantly available in the care facilities and accommodation used by the handicapped individual.” The charter is also an attempt at plugging the legal gap that exists when it comes to dealing with the sexuality of mentally handicapped adults.

 

For the moment, vagueness reigns. Each institution deals with the problem as best it can, emotionally and legally (adhering to laws regarding debauchery and procurement). Some stricter facilities do not allow any close or sexual relationships, even between residents. Others have taken the plunge and now permit those relationships, even though they are often faced with problems caused by jealously and possessiveness in the aftermath.

 

As far as the hiring of prostitutes is concerned, it appears to be every one for themselves. Often the first step is taken by a care worker via charitable organizations that are active in the domain of prostitution, such as EspaceP in Brussels and L’Envol in Charleroi.

 

“Now,” stresses Tillieux, “this charter does not mean that every institution will have to work in the same way and stick to some sort of regulation. But, at least, when parents register their children there, they’ll know what to expect and what the facility’s policy is in terms of sexuality and contraception.”

 

LUDIVINE PONCIAU

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