Topic No 1

What is the policy in each country about the sex education of special needs people?
(LT) august - october 2012


Historical Evaluation of Sexuality
The sexual revolution took place in the West from 1960s and created new foundation for concepts of sexuality. Because of the isolation (the “Iron Curtain”) real changes reached to Estonia just in the early 1990s.
Sexuality as a topic was kept under cover in the whole Soviet Union for ordinary people as well as for people with special needs. Disabled people, even people in wheelchairs were pushed away from society and they were encapsulated into their homes. If disabled (mentally or physically) child was born state recommended policy was to give the child away to state care institutions which caused due to inadequate care and overpopulation even greater problems, including risk of sexual abuse. Disabled persons and their sexuality did not conform to standards of that time.
Most of young people could not get appropriate information about sexuality. Various misinterpretations were around in peer groups and this information was often not the top-quality. Parents often would not dare to touch these sensitive issues. Soviet time counseling was not client friendly.
Despite major changes in publicity, counseling and started sex education after Estonian re-independence period, interpretation of sexuality is often considered as something disgraceful, confusing and is related to several stigmas.

Nowadays Approach to Sexuality
Nowadays approach to sexuality starts from Soviet Union’s collapse and transition period to reestablish Estonian Republic. Teaching sexuality as one aspect of normal living was introduced in 1996 at public schools’ personal education programs as mandatory subject. Different trainings and counseling services were offered in bigger towns at Estonian Sexual Health Association counseling centers.
Sexuality associates different meanings, concepts and sexual behavior – in another way expression of sexuality (verbal and non-verbal sexual communication, like touching, kissing and other relaxing or energizing sexual activities). Sexual behavior is integral part of individual’s identity and his/her whole behavior, internal world and emotional life. Mentioned physical processes and their essence are in interaction and have formed in every person unique dynamic combination.
Sexuality includes dreams, wishes, needs, desires and knowledge, skills and abilities how to reach them. Sexuality in each person is unique, because it is affected by many aspects. Sexual feelings and sexual activities associate both with individual preferences and tendencies with closer network (family, friends) and distant social network – including culture, social norms and traditions in the society.

Sexual Education of Youth with Intellectual Disabilities
Except of some individual initiatives of enthusiastic people in care homes there is no descent sexual education of young people with intellectual disabilities. People with learning disabilities can have special basic education until the age of 18. Young adults have the possibility to apply for special vocational education. If there is also attention for sexual educational curricula still depends too much from the policy in the school or the initiative, the knowledge and the attitude from the teacher.
Also in families people with learning disabilities often still don't get appropriate support in their sexual development. Despite some first project-based publications, there is also still a lack of information and publications for parents and other caretakers. Most of the young people with learning disabilities get their information about sexuality in peer-groups which is very often incomplete, inappropriate and often even dangerous. 

Sexual Right  of Intellectual Disabled People
In Estonia there is the national sexual health association that has also a declaration of sexual rights of people (in general). In order to inform and emancipate people about their sexual rights they spread information and organize trainings in different ways all over Estonia. But specific sexual education towards people with an intellectual disability doesn't really exist or are rather rare. The same is also true about trainings for social workers or pedagogues working with those people.
As such people with learning disabilities theoretically have also their sexual rights but practically they are not represented in sexual education programmes and apart from some incidental initiatives there is nobody (pro) actively protecting and promoting their sexual rights.
Officially there are the rights of people with a learning disability to have relational and intimate life. But there is a lot of protectionism and also taboo from parents, family and/or caretakers. There are  a few professionals who are able to give people with a learning disability any guidance or advice about sexual health, relationship, intimacy or growing up children.

How should change the current political situation towards the sexuality of intellectually disabled people?
I The existing organizations working on the field of sexuality and sexual health should change their policy and activities towards real inclusion. They should cooperate with actors working with and taking care of young people with learning disabilities and work out a descent sexual education programme. It is also necessary to develop trainings for people working with persons with learning disabilities. And last but not least there should be more easy available appropriate information towards parents of children with special needs.


Historical Evaluation of Sexuality
Until 1970 the attitude didn't accept the sexuality of disabled.
People with special needs weren't accepted as sexual humans.
At the big central institutions they were separated - men and women wards.
In the beginning of the seventies parents and staff made the public aware of that the “clients” behaved as sexual individuals.
The Ministry of Social Welfare decided to create courses. Up qualification of the staff in order to recognize and accept the sexuality and be able to advice and support.
In 1980 the central institutions were closed down, and the “clients” became “normal” citizens in small communities.
It was an eye opener, because the disabled became a part of the society - became visible - living in houses, shopping etc. like everybody else.
A life as close as possible to “normal” meant also being accepted as a sexual person.
The process included new demands to the staff also handling the sexuality of the disabled, which accelerated further educational offers to the staff.
Through the eighties many initiatives were taken concerning these challenges.
The need of proper and longer education became logic and in 1990 The Sexual training Education Course was a reality.
Until now 350 sexual advisers has been graduated.

Nowadays Approach to Sexuality
Sexuality is not as much a taboo in Denmark as it used to be (read “normal” population). We see and read more and more about it in the television and in newspapers and more people are ready and open to talk about it with their close friends and partners and some even have lectures about it. We have many web pages where young and old can get information and good advises about sex and sexuality. As well as the elderly generation is talking about sexuality so is the younger generation. The Danish government and public associations are doing a lot of work to   enlighten the Danish population about sexuality and sex related diseases. But when it comes to people with mentally disabilities it’s another story. Here the Danish population is more reserved to talk about and understand sexuality. A lot of people think that mentally and disabled people are non sexual individuals and they don´t think they feel love, emotions and the desire for sex and intimacy.  
Even though Denmark is a pioneer country in this topic, we still have to inform and make the population understand, that all people have these needs and it normal also for disabled people. 
One way of doing that is to write about it in newspapers, books and make documentary programs about it in television. So far many professionals work with this topic and try to tell the population about disabled people and sexuality.
Professionals, who works with people in Denmark, can get an education to become a Sex Guide. There are two different places were this education is given. So far more than 350 professionals have got this education and each is spending time teaching not only mentally disabled people about this topic but also the surroundings.

Sexual Education of Youth with Intellectual Disabilities
Sex education is compulsory for all students including disabled students.
The sexual minimum age in Denmark is 15 years.
Under 15 you can only receive information/education.
Above 15 you can receive information/education and practical advice.

Sexual Right of Intellectual Disabled People
The purpose of The Danish law of public social service is to provide people with special needs relevant support.
People with physical or/and mentally disabilities have the same fundamental rights as anybody else. This ground is an essential part of the Danish legislation as well as international conventions.
The Law of public social service does not contain more specific support to sexuality (but as the only country in the world, there exist, since 1989, a guideline for staff) as well as it is not applying how advice and support about sexuality is to be given. We are to consider their needs which follow of being a person with disabilities. And since sexuality is a natural part of life, guidance and support about sexuality should be given with respect.
According to the convention of the UN (which Denmark signed in 1993), it is not allowed to reject people with disabilities the right to experience their own sexuality, to have sexual relations and the possibility to become parents. Like everybody else people with disabilities have the right to get married, getting information and education about reproduction and protection.   
According to the UN social workers have the responsibility to advise/support the disabled people.
Supervision and support by professionals (sexologist, psychologist etc.) is a possibility.

How should change the current political situation towards the sexuality of intellectually disabled people?
For the future it is essential to implement the sexual topics in every education concerning work with human beings (pedagogues, teachers, nurses and social workers).
Upgrading the wariness of sexual health for everyone!


Historical Evaluation of Sexuality
Starting since Christianization of the Lithuania that took place in 1387 policy of Catholic Church took the dominant position in policy of all country.
During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe but it was a lot of Catholic restriction about sexual relations between unmarried and even married people. 
The Statutes of Lithuania were a 16th century codification of all the legislation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania provided even the death penalty for non-marital relationships.
Post-war period; people lived in "traditional" society, where sex “did not exist”. It was not polite to talk about sex and sexual relations. At schools there were no sex education; education was based on moralistic and threatening. Birth control did not exist; a lot of forced marriages took place because of unplanned pregnancy. It was a lot of criminal abortions during this time.
However, the Lithuanian folklore possible to find a lot of symbols of sexuality: sympathy, desire, dating, first night, etc. It is still a very popular explanation for children "Stork comes with the new born baby".
After Lithuania became an independent state, western culture made a significant impact on people’s mentality. Suddenly disappeared all restrictions which for many years were the norm,. The media becomes independent as well.  Therefore, there are big differences between the generations – starting from the very conservative attitudes to fully liberal approaches.

Nowadays Approach to Sexuality
Any debates on sex education in Lithuania are not welcome. The dominating opinion – do not talk about this and you will avoid the problem.
School curricula do not provide separate sex education subject- it is just some topics integrated into the biology and other classes.
Gender Research Centre at Vilnius University dr. Arturas Tereškinas* states that Lithuanians are not sexy. He has in mind not physical characteristic, but mentality and behavior. A. Tereškinas states, that Lithuanians still are constrained - about sex talking very seriously, significantly. People feel no free are not able to jus enjoy.  Lithuanians understanding sexuality just as physical appearance and nice body. Sexuality in our country is identical sex.
The sexual minimum age in Lithuania is 16 years.

Sexual Education of Youth with Intellectual Disabilities
The disabled persons in Lithuania are generally accepted as sexless people. We are taking care of their education, employment, providing medical care, nursing and technical support services, but usually we are forgetting to take care about the personal life of a disabled person.
The biggest problem is that the community does not understand such needs of disabled people as love, intimacy and sexual satisfaction. The dominating opinion -   sexuality is just for people with “normal” intellect.  People believe that disability can damage human sexuality and   reproducibility.  
E. Giedraitienė and R. Vaičekauskaitė* propose that success of many learning methods depend on the comprehensive approach of education as well sex education.  The most important is teamwork: parents, teachers, doctors, social workers, teachers, peers.
People with disabilities usually are infantilized by society, most of people treating mentally disabled grownups like children; they are not recognized as adults with sexual needs and desires.
We are afraid that, sex education of disabled youngsters in Lithuania completely not exists. The most common opinion – better stay away from this subject; if you start to talk about sex with mentally disabled he/she could become uncontrollable and even can be danger for other people. But sexuality - is one of the basic human needs, so it is necessary to identify and meet this topic
There are no qualified professionals. No one vocational or high school in Lithuania educates professionals able to give sex education to mentally disabled youth.
Due to lack of information and knowledge mentally disabled persons often are getting in to the situations of sexual abuse and exploitation.

*A. Kalinkevičienė - Tėvų požiūris į neįgalių vaikų ugdymą, Magistro darbas (2005)

Sexual Right  of Intellectual Disabled People
In our opinion – nobody in Lithuania care about   right of private life of mentally disabled people starting from their parent’s ending legislation. The most common attitude - many years nobody was talking about this and it was no problem, so way we need to start talking about this now? 
In Lithuania nobody officially represents rights to sexual life of people with mental disabilities. The topic was never discussed at the national level. Perhaps why there are a lot of myths that distort the true situation.
The work should begin at the family of disabled person.  Parent’s usually treating their adult child, as a small baby all his life and rejects any sexual needs. Only a change to begin changes is to educate parent’s firs. When we are meeting with indifference from family of disabled person all other people getting no inspiration and not making any affords to start the discussion. 
Society has negative approach to the disabled person’s desire to love and be loved, desire to have a beloved, to live in a pair. Mentally disabled individuals who want to start a family and to have children are just moralizing, scaring and criticizing; but not helping them to assist and understand the situation logically.  

How should change the current political situation towards the sexuality of intellectually disabled people?
At first should be changed attitude to people with disabilities, especially individuals with mental disabilities in Lithuania.
The public must understand that mentally disabled people are the same people as everyone else, that they have the same needs as any of us.
The vocational schools, colleges and universities should prepare professionals qualified to give sexual education to non disabled and disabled youth.
At the same time we have to put in to the  practice separate, and active sex education course to schools were high qualified professionals can give expropriate education to non disabled and disabled youth. 
To form the teams (family - school - further education) working together on this actual topic. The collaboration between family and professionals will brae the barriers and will enable everybody to be open mind.   
If each mentally disabled persons could get appropriate information, they will manage to understand what is sexuality, what are their sexual needs, how to meet them and control, perhaps able to protect themselves from unplanned  pregnancy, to understand and recognize what is sexual abuse and exploitation.

The innovative approach and team work could improve quality of life of mental disabled person as well society will become much more tolerant and open mind and supportive.