The study session entitled "Supporting young disabled people to explore sexuality and relationships as integral to their social inclusion and independent living" was led by members of the ENIL Youth Network and brought together 22 young disabled people from 13 European countries. The often avoided, taboo topics of sex, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights and sexual identity, among others, were discussed in a safe, informal atmosphere at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg, France.
Six working days full of interactive sessions engaged participants from the morning until the evening. Two external speakers – Teresa Lugstein (the leader of "Make it" – the Office for Girls Support at the Youth Department in Salzburg, Austria) and Embla Guðrúnar Ágústsdóttir (a feminist disability queer activist interested in sexology and social interactions from Iceland) – spoke about sexuality and reproductive rights, and equality and respect in relationships.
The cultural diversity of the group only contributed to the learning experience of participants and made the working days exciting and filled with positive energy. It was fascinating to see how differently the discussed issues were understood and dealt with throughout Europe. Despite the differences, however, similar experiences emerged. There was a consensus that everyone should have a right to form relationships and have sex.
During the study session, participants drafted a set of recommendations for the ENIL Youth Network. They include the need to:
Include sex education within the inclusive education debate;
Work with the media to cover the topic of sex and disability
Build a relationship with the Directorate General for Health at the European Commission and agree a policy position in cooperation with the European Disability Forum (EDF);
Use the social media to highlight the topic of disability and sexuality;
Establish a task force within the ENIL Youth Network to work on the topic of disability and sexuality;
Map existing campaigns on disability and sexuality.
All the participants, team members and some CoE staff took part in ENIL’s 5th May Campaign. Participants also committed to raising awareness on sexuality and relationships, and the rights of disabled people, in their communities. According to them, it is high time we forgot about taboos and face the truth – Independent Living is for everyone and includes all that most non-disabled people take for granted.