Finding love an uphill task for people with disabilities
A recent study by University of Alberta, a Canadian institution suggest that abled people commonly viewed People With Disabilities (PWDs) as asexual due to a common belief that sex between abled people is the only natural sex.
The research shows majority of the abled people believe sex with a PWD is unnatural. They, therefore avoid dating PWDs.
This research was triggered by a documentary called Sexability, which has PWDs talk about their challenges in finding partners due their disability.
This is a tale majority of PWDs here in the country, especially women have to endure in their dating lives or while in search of true love.
Jacqueline Cheche, a trained teacher has first-hand experience of how people with disabilities face it rough to get real love.Cheche, an amputee, lost one of her legs to an accident at the age of five years and she had to learn to live with prosthesis.
During her childhood, it never occurred to her that she would face possible challenges in the future in terms of having someone who would overlook her disability and love her for who she was.
“Ideally, these fears should have come up during my adolescence stage, but at that time, my mind was full of how I was being treated as a PWD, especially in our school and so the rejection caught me off-guard years later,” she says.
She successfully completed her secondary education and joined college where she finally decided to dip her feet into the dating world, something she terms as a big mistake. “There was a guy who was on my case for a long time and after a while, I decided to give him a chance. At first, everything was fine or that is what I thought. I had no experience so everything appeared normal to me,” she says.
Different kind of love
However, after some time, Cheche says she started noticing that their relationship was so different from the couples she knew.
She says the man wanted the relationship a secret and did all his best to conceal it from everyone.
“He never wanted to walk with me. Anytime we were walking, he would be steps ahead and I would be left behind struggling to catch up with him and due to my leg, it was difficult,” she says.
She would also wear long dresses, which covered her legs and nobody could tell she had a prosthesis, shielding her from awkward stares and questions.
Cheche says the man never wanted her to visit him at his house and would prefer coming to her house every time.
All this while, she would tolerate everything thrown her way by the boyfriend, maybe because she was naive or believed those were the qualities of a good girlfriend.
Cheche, however, says the final nail to the coffin was when the boyfriend introduced her to some friends as a woman he was assisting due to her disability.
“This is when it dawned on me that there was nothing normal with that relationship and, therefore, I quit,” she says.
These events took away the little hope she had of dating, or one day walking down the aisle.
Cheche says she started doubting her abilities of making a good wife in future. “The African set-up wants a woman who can cook, take bath water to the bathroom for their husbands, do laundry and much more. What happens to someone like me who cannot do all these, do I still have a chance of getting married one day?” she poses.
Florence Njeri, an actress says myths and misconceptions also contribute to negative perceptions towards PWDs such as not having sexual feelings.
Njeri, a mother of two says just like every woman, she has had her own share of being rejected due to her disability.
Outdated societal myths
The actress has congenital femoral deficiency, which refers to malformations of the thigh bones due to incomplete development, which affects one leg. She also uses a prosthetic leg for mobility.
She says during her first pregnancy 10 years ago, many people felt she had been raped and the sex was not consensual due to the perception that PWDs cannot engage in consensual sex unless assaulted, something she strongly disagrees with.
“At one time, a woman in the church I used to attend told my son to look for the man who impregnated me and make sure he is in jail. She could not imagine that I consented to that sex that brought about the pregnancy. But I just understood where she was coming from,” she notes.
After, she separated with the father of the baby, this sent her back to the dating scene and everything has not been easy.
Njeri says previously, she would wear long clothes to hide her prosthesis so as not to scare away suitors, but she then realised her leg was not the obstacle to her love life.
She notes that at one time, she got into a relationship with a man and they were planning to settle down when the man made a U-turn without any explanation.
“Even though he did not say it, I felt his family was not going to accept me and that is why he was reluctant to introduce me to his family. Even though I walked away, I have remained guarded when it comes to love matters. I have built a wall against serious relationships,” she says.
The actress says some of the rejections from men are fueled by outdated societal myths and misconceptions such as people married to PWDs are likely to get disabled children, which is false.
Njeri, whose two children are all abled, says this notion makes potential partners avoid dating or marrying PWDs.
“Another weird myth that affects love life of PWDs is that they have a unique feeling when it comes to sex. This, then pushes men to have the urge to try and confirm these outrageous beliefs and when they discover it is not true, they abandon the women, sometimes while pregnant,” she says.
Also, reluctance to accept PWDs as wives or husbands by the partner’s family makes it harder for them to get into relationships and start their own families.
Njeri says the only way of surviving the negativity is by growing a thick skin and accepting the situation as it is considering there is nothing they could change.