Yes, you read that title correctly! This is the name of a controversial scheme which has reportedly been launched in the Netherlands by the government, for the benefit of disabled citizens. Wheelchair-users and people with other disabilities will receive payments up to 12 times per year for sexual services from prostitutes. It is claimed that this has dramatically reduced levels of depression among the disabled. Many of them have hitherto never had the chance to explore their sexuality, and have their needs fulfilled. Now Britain and France are considering following suit, offering legal prostitution rings for the use of the disabled.
The Netherlands has long been known as a very liberal and progressive country, which has social subsidies on everything from housing through to education, so subsidizing sex for the physically disadvantaged is maybe just one step further. Since prostitution has been legalised in the country, the government is giving a boost to both the domestic sex economy and the sex lives of its disabled citizens. The bottom line is, they increasingly see having intimate personal relations as a right which everyone should be able to enjoy.
There is no “sex services grant” as such, but the welfare received by disabled citizens can be spent on whatever they want. There are reports that these special benefits can be received up to 12 times per year, but the details of this are cloudy. There is, however, a 29-year-old man, Chris Fulton, with muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, who has started a campaign appealing to the Dutch government to introduce a grant scheme which is more specific.
Why is sex given priority in this way? Besides the obvious physically pleasurable aspect of it, having intercourse is a form of physical and mental therapy. In the field of psychology, many experts point out that sex fulfils needs for intimacy, validation, self-esteem and stress relief. It is also known in health circles as an antidote to stress and even a help in pain management. This research is cited by social workers, carers and affected individuals in calling for better access to sexual services for those with disabilities.
The issue however is clouded with controversy, and it is an uncomfortable subject to discuss in most circles. Many individuals object to paying their taxes to support the sex industry. The supporters of this cause, including doctors, academics and social workers, argue that it is not about supporting the sex industry, but addressing health issues and promoting a human right.
There is also the aspect of safety which needs to be seriously considered. The critics of this scheme argue that disabled people may be at risk of abuse from sex workers, particularly disabled women, and the issue of fully informed consent is a thorny and contentious one. If someone is mentally disabled, can they be said to be fully consenting, even if they are legally old enough? Some people would argue no.
Picture courtesy of www.rbrn.com