Society’s Obscure Injustice

| May 22, 2015

It’s common knowledge that intellectually disabled people are a vulnerable group.

However, society has often been caught on the wrong side of morality after failing to protect them when perverts take aantage of their unfortunate situation.

Often abused sexually as well as marginalised by society, intellectually disabled people find themselves at the mercy of a debilitating situation where society frowns upon them in utter disgust premised on an ill-aised judgment.

There is widespread sexual abuse of people with intellectual disability, admits University of Botswana lecture and social worker, Mr Kgomotso Jongman. Sometimes they do not report because they have limited verbal skills or lack support because they are often scorned for their intellectually disabled condition when something happens.

It’s unfortunate, says Jongman, that some members of society harbour a perception that people with disabilities have a high libido since they seldom refuse to consent to sex.

“We abuse them because we believe they always want sex but we must remember that people with intellectual disability have no proper way of doing things. They can do sex anywhere and with anybody,” he cautioned.

He said instead of casting aspersions and judgments on intellectually disabled people they must be taken to Sabrana Mental Hospital for professional assessments to determine the degree or range of the mental illness for proper interventions on behavior.

Jongman appeals to society treat intellectually disabled people with respect. “A person with mental disability is referred to as a minor because they cannot tell you what they want. These people succumb to our pressures easily,” laments Jongman.

Clinical psychologist at Princess Marina Hospital, Ms Boitumelo Rakwena, underscores the importance of society to understand indicators of people with intellectual disability or cognitive problems. Such cases should be referred to clinical therapists as early as possible so that they can aise the family on how to handle them.

Ms Rakwena says it is critical to build bridges between people with intellectual disability and society to enable them to fit well. “We have to be supportive to these individuals and not blame them. “We should take decisions and judgments for them and not castigate them,” she adds.

Ms Rakwena warns that some symptoms of intellectual disability are not obvious at physical level but evident in actions which are contrary to societal expectations. Family members should look out for these and refrain from judging occurrences at a superficial level.

“It is regrettable that some parents have a tendency of spanking or applying punitive measures on children who exhibit certain unacceptable behaviours but such often compounds the problem further.”

“The common practice is that when a parent finds a six-year old child performing sexual acts on a two year old, they would take a stick and beat the child but the child might be exhibiting signs of sexual abuse,” she cautions.

An attorney with Ndadi law firm, Mr Phazha Molebatsi, says section 148 of the Penal Code makes it an offense for any person to knowingly have sexual intercourse with someone mentally retarded. Also, the constitution recognises that intellectually disabled people may consent to sex but are vulnerable.

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: News

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