Hesperian Health Guides
Wrong ideas and myths about disability
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Local customs and beliefs may include wrong and harmful ideas about disability. Some people think a woman gets a disability if she or her parents did something bad in a former life, or that they displeased their ancestors, or one of her parents had a sexual relationship outside their marriage. Usually people blame the mother. But mothers are not to blame for a child's disability. And blaming anyone for a disability does not help.
Another harmful idea about disability is the belief that anybody who is 'different' should be excluded, mocked and criticized. Some people think a person with a disability is a bad omen or will bring bad luck. Women with disabilities are often abused, or forced to become beggars or do sex work for a living. Sometimes women with disabilities are sexually abused because people believe they are free of HIV/AIDS or that having sex with a disabled woman can cure HIV/AIDS.
But the truth is: No woman with a disability should ever be abused. Disability is never a punishment. Disability is not caused by witchcraft or a curse. Disability is not infectious and cannot spread to other people.
People may also not understand what a disabled woman can or cannot do. They may not realize that:
- you are an adult and can make decisions.
- you need an education.
- you need health care.
- you can also get diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.
- you need opportunities and respect, not pity and sympathy.
- you can work. You can be a professional and have a career.
- you can earn, own property and raise and support your family.
- you think, feel and have emotions.
- you can dance and exercise.
- you can take responsibilities, make decisions and take a leadership role and involve yourself in your community.
- you can have close relationships with anyone. You can love or be loved by a person without disabilities or a person with a disability.
- you have sexual desires, and you can be sexually active.
- you can marry and have children.
- you are capable of having sex, but may not want to have sex.
- if you have difficulty learning or understanding, you have neither more nor fewer sexual needs than other women.
- you will most often give birth to babies who do not have disabilities, just like other women.
- you are a good mother.
- if you have a physical impairment or a learning disability, you are not mentally sick or unstable.
- you do not curse people or curse children and you are not a bad omen to be avoided.