France Denies the Right to ‘Sexual Assistance’ for Severely Handicapped Individuals

"Si Vous Prenez Ma Place, Prenez Aussi Mon Handicap"Image: www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_the_astonishing

“Si Vous Prenez Ma Place, Prenez Aussi Mon Handicap”
Image:www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_the_astonishing

On Monday, March 11, the National Consulting Committee of Ethics (NCCE), formulated a response to the following question: Should severely handicapped individuals with hindered sexuality reserve the right to be helped by specialized professionals?

The blunt answer was no. However, the Committee brought up this question as a result of Roselyne Bachelot, the Health Minister until 2011, and his fervent opposition to the matter. The NCCE explains, “It is impossible to transform the sexual assistant into a professional role due to the unethical use of the human body for commercial purposes.”

Yet, such a profession is recognized in the United States, in Switzerland, and in a number of European countries including Holland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Belgium and even Italy, the territory of the Pope. In the United States, sexual assistants aid handicapped individuals both mentally and physically to discover or rediscover an ability to achieve bodily pleasure. The inevitable question will center on how to draw the line between a ‘sexual assistant’ and a prostitute. In the US, the activities of the profession can include simple skin-to-skin contact, caresses, masturbation and, at times, intercourse.

The USA was the first country to accept such professionals, also known as ‘sex surrogates’, ever since 1980. In Francophone Switzerland, it is the Sexuality and Multiple Handicaps Association (SEHP) that created a formal training in sexual assistance in 2008. The training takes a full year and has an extremely selective entry process. In applying for this training, a background check is a prerequisite — people with criminal records are immediately sifted out — and prior knowledge of and experience with handicaps is requested as well as a strong motivation letter. In addition to the rigid process, the training costs 2,500 Euros and is not reimbursable by any medical insurance. Between 2008 and 2009, six men and six women were trained to be sexual assistants. As of June 2009, over 80 handicapped individuals, mostly men, called upon the services of the association.

So far, in France, when requested through medical assistance, handicapped individuals are able to have sexual assistants. However, the medical associate that matches clients with an assistant is liable to be penalized for the procurement of such activities that are considered prostitution.

The French handicapped population has increasingly sought out sexual assistance as a part of a series of equal rights protests. These demonstrations provided the foundation of the equal rights and opportunities bill for handicapped men and women of February 11, 2005. In 2005, the 10% of the French population consisted of handicapped individuals, and the new law implied the following rights:

  • Access to civil and social domains including transport, education, employment.
  • The right to compensation to cover the restraining and demanding consequences of the handicap.
  • The creation of the Departmental House for Handicapped Persons (MDPH – Maison Départementale des Personnes Handicapées) which aids handicapped individuals and their families and increases the consciousness in the general population of the handicapped.

For those in favor of sexual assistance for the handicapped, such as French philosopher Nobert Campagna, the conclusion of the Committee, won’t come as a surprise. Campagna — author of “La Sexualité des handicapes: faut il seulement la tolérer ou l’accompagner” — states, “ This point of view falls in line with the French political view on prostitution. Such sexual assistance, however, plays a crucial role for these individuals as an access to sexuality since they do not have the same mode of life as most of the population.”

Opposed to the creation of the role of ‘sexual assistants’, the General Secretary of the Movement for the Abolition of Prostitution in France, Grégoire Thery, calls upon the “dignity of handicapped individuals” in defending his position. He claims that, “ handicapped people have the same right to intimacy and sexuality as everyone else.” Thery, as well as the many more opponents to the legal presence of sexual assistants, believe that such a role can put these assistants and handicapped individuals at risk for abuse and blackmail.

In the meantime, on March 6th, French cinema opened its doors to the screening of the American movie, The Sessions. This movie is based on the true story of journalist and poet, Mark O’Brien, who was severely handicapped during childhood as a result of polio. The movie is taken from O’Brien’s novel titled, On Seeing a Sex Surrogate, telling the life story of a man suffering from tetraplegia. As a result of this man’s few sessions with a sexual assistant, he discovers aspects of his sexuality. Still a virgin in his thirties, he describes this eye opening experience that furnished a new life outlook for him.

French Politicians may be dealing with too many new social reforms for 2013, with the right to same sex marriage and the right to adoption for homosexual couples on the political docket. As of now, most French officials believe the issue goes hand in hand with the illegality of prostitution. They do not plan to mirror the actions of neighboring European nations by promoting the right.

Comments

  1. Another brilliant piece of reporting on the paradoxes of fabulous France. It is good to know that the moral spine of the French elites remain strong and principled, whether it concerns people with handicaps or able-bodied sex addicts.

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