A South African father says he masturbates his handicapped 29-year-old son to provide him “sexual health and sexual wellbeing and [give] sexual therapy”. The unnamed father revealed this over a South African radio, while fending off criticism by a sexologist that his action was “incestuous”. The father says he began to pleasure his son, who has suffered a cerebral palsy since he was six-months-old, since he was 18.
“In addition to the daily feeding and physical physiotherapy, as well as the mental stimulation that I provide my son, I am also aware of the sexual feelings of my son, indicated to me by my son’s various behavioural means, such as an erect penis when I am changing or bathing him,” the father said. The man is now on a mission to raise awareness about the sexual needs of disabled people and is campaigning for physiotherapists to be trained to provide sexual therapy to patients with severe disabilities.
The man is to co-author an academic paper with social worker Dr Marlene de Beer on sexual health and the wellbeing of the disabled.
De Beer said the “reality is that South Africa is not equipped to deal with cases like this”.
“It can be a very contentious issue … [which] shows the lack of clarity, policy direction, gaps and lack of support,” she said.
Through their research, they hope to identify additional options available to parents and caregivers confronted with the sexual desires and sexual health of disabled teenagers.
In some countries, there are professionals who provide services for people with disabilities, their research abstract states.
These include The Netherlands, which has a grant scheme through which people with disabilities can receive public money to pay for sexual services up to 12 times a year. In Taiwan, an NGO called Hand Angel trains volunteers to masturbate the disabled.
But Dr Shaheda Omar, of the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, said the father could be criminally liable under the amended Sexual Offences law because his son is unable to give consent due to his disabilities.
“If the father’s intention is to relieve his son from pain, he needs to work closely with a multidisciplinary team on managing his son’s pain and explore other possibilities,” said Omar.
She said the father masturbating his son was “problematic” as this amounted to “self-soothing behaviour”.
Lurinda Prinsloo, of the Cerebral Palsy Association in Eastern Cape, said everyone had the right to sexual freedom but that the sexual health and sexual rights of disabled people was a “grey area”.
But De Beer argued that where someone had been taking care of a severely disabled person for a long time, consent might be communicated using nuances difficult for outsiders to see.
“Although we have a constitution that promotes the rights of people with disabilities it hasn’t dealt with sexual rights,” De Beer said.
A 58-year-old Cape Town mother, whose son suffers from multiple disabilities, said that though he had sexual urges and often masturbated, she could not perform the act for her son.
The president of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Joan van Niekerk, said the frustrations of severely disabled people expressing their sexual needs were not unknown.
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