People with disability have the right to sex

This week’s decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) about National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding for sex therapy, has been welcomed as a first step towards people with disability having access to support to have sex, say leading disability and sex worker advocacy groups.

“We congratulate the applicant, a brave woman with disability who is determined to have the same rights as non-disabled people to an adult sex life,” said Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia.

“Deputy President Rayment OAM QC of the AAT was considering a specific set of circumstances for this woman with disability but we hope that it now provides the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) with a framework to develop much needed policy in this area. The previous state-based disability support system had long supported people with disability to have funded access to sex work services – now it is time for the NDIS to catch up with this long-standing precedent,” said Matthew Bowden.

“We are pleased that the AAT has upheld the rights of people with disability to sexual expression, which would enable ‘reasonable and necessary’ support through NDIS funding to engage the services of a sex worker to achieve therapeutic outcomes. People with disability should not be denied access to sex on the basis of their disability.”

“Sex therapists do not provide sex work services, but sex workers often provide therapeutic outcomes for their clients through the services they provide. These services are provided by sex workers, some of whom have been trained by Touching Base in honing and further developing their skills in working with people with disability.” said Saul Isbister, President of Touching Base.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Australia ratified in 2008, says that governments have an obligation to ensure that people with disability can enjoy life to the same extent as their non-disabled peers.

The NDIS is underpinned by the CRPD and ensures that the rights of people with disability are paramount in all decisions.

‘We argue that every adult, with a disability or not, has a human right to seek consensual sexual expression. Non-disabled people can masturbate, or find sexual partners, but for some people with disability, they don’t have the same opportunities without access to sex work services. For too long the issue of disability and sexuality has been a taboo topic that was kept shrouded in a veil of secrecy or denial. During our work, over the last 19 years, Touching Base has seen a remarkable transformation in the willingness of governments and the disability service sector to respond in ways that support people with disability to make their own choices.” said Saul Isbister.

More information:
People with Disability Australia
Media and Communications
0491 034 479

About Touching Base
Touching Base is a sex worker advocacy organisation focusing on the rights of people with disability and sex workers. It formed in October 2000 and has been advocating for the rights of sex workers and people with disability ever since. Touching Base aims to facilitate the link between these two marginalised societal groups, removing the stigma that impedes their self-expression and raise the public awareness of the issues that affect them.

The organisation encourages information sharing and the expansion of educational tools for sex workers, people with disability and the disability sector.

About People with Disability Australia:
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is a national Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) that undertakes representation and advocacy to achieve the human rights of people with disability. Our primary membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability. We have a cross-disability focus – we represent the interests of people with all kinds of disability. PWDA is a non-profit, non-government organisation.

Our vision is of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, belonging, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are recognised, respected and celebrated with pride. This vision underpins everything that we do.