Sexuality in people with deafness
People with disabilities are becoming more and more visible. In many countries, the entire urban space must take into account people who have difficulties walking or seeing, for example.
However, there is a disability that “is not seen”, which places the people who experience it in a disadvantaged situation with another nuance. It’s about deafness.
A different language
Not being able to perceive sounds, deaf people learn another type of language, sign language, to communicate with the world. The paradox is that those who can hear are not taught that language, unless they are direct relatives or have some relationship with deaf people.
The scant diffusion of sign language (which, even more than the spoken languages, varies from country to country) has only recently changed, when the governments of some countries or certain television channels have begun to integrate sign interpreters into your broadcasts.
However, much information is missing to be translated into this language, including information regarding human sexuality.
According to an article published in the journal Archivos Hispanoamericanos de Sexología, in 2005, the deaf population is socially and psychologically isolated from the information that has the sound of speech as its code.
Unfortunately, this affects their education about sexuality in general and about the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in particular. All this generates wrong beliefs and can produce insecurity in these people, since they conceive sexuality as something unknown and dangerous for them.
The author of the article, the Mexican Magnolia Téllez Trejo, has also observed that the little information that deaf people have at their disposal “is still fraught with myths and taboos.”
In general, continues the researcher, deaf people do not receive the necessary information about sexuality and this makes them more vulnerable to abuse or deception in this area. Many times they are perceived as eternal boys or girls, and they want to be “protected” from information about sexuality that could be “excessive”.
The challenges of reporting
Deafness and other hearing problems limit people’s access to education, employment and social integration, states the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The World Health Organization (WHO), for its part, estimates that 4.5% of the populations of various developing countries have some form of hearing disability.
Within HIV prevention strategies, it is well known that it is not enough to launch general information for all people, but it is necessary to adapt it to the context and the different realities that certain groups experience. This is the case of deaf people, since it is more than evident that it has been necessary to include terms such as “AIDS”, “condom” and others in sign language.
Another article, published in the journal Education and Science, explains that deaf people have a delay in reading and writing, and also have difficulties in understanding concepts of anatomy and physiology, and in processing information in a way similar to that of hearing people.
Working with adolescents and young people with deafness in Yucatan, the authors of this text observed that women, in particular, are repelled by masturbation and pornography, and even by informative brochures on sexuality.
Sex education in signs
It is not necessary, for deaf teens or anyone else, really, to have “the talk” about sexuality in a single, solemn moment. Sex education is something that can be built day by day, and sermons are not needed, but rather a series of friendly talks that address different topics.
Whether parents or teachers are trying to teach sexual education to deaf youth, it is important to address basic concepts such as sexual intercourse, pregnancy, STIs, condoms, and consent to such or such sexual practices. This is best done step by step, since not all the signs that can be used in such a talk may be known, but thanks to the internet, it is simply a matter of looking for them.
What you do have to make sure of is not only showing an image and a sign for “condom”, but also having this tool available to the deaf person, so that if they decide to exercise their sexuality, they do so responsibly and protected.
At AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we work for quality HIV services for all people. If you want to get free condoms, come to our nearest office in your country or write to us on Whatsapp.