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Can people with developmental disabilities be banned from having sex?

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NBC News reported last week on the case of a man in England with a low IQ who was prohibited from having sex. Known in British courts only as Alan, he is a 41 year old man with an IQ of 48. He lives in an apartment with a man. Alan and his roommate, Kieron, have a sexual relationship. Laws in Britain state that the Court of Protection can rule that an individual does not have the capacity to make decisions for his or herself. The court can force an individual to have surgery, get an abortion, or be forced to use contraception. The government in England can choose when to stop life support for a person with a disability. The court ruled that Alan did not have the ability to understand the consequences his actions might have on his health. Alan can no longer have access to Kieron and is restricted from any sexual activity with others.

Such a ruling would be much less likely in Connecticut. There is no law on the books that prohibits people with developmental disabilities from having sex. In some cases an individual’s guardian may have the right to restrict some of his or her basic activities; however the state does not typically have the right do to so in these cases.

The Connecticut Department of Developmental Services(DDS) offers classes and trainings in sexuality and understanding relationships for both people with disabilities and those who support them. Rather than simply restricting people with disabilities and taking away their rights, education is viewed as the key to helping them make the best decisions for themselves. Parents are encouraged to start speaking with their children about sex just as they would with their child who is not disabled. The idea that people with intellectual disabilities will stay childlike forever is a fallacy. While an individual’s intellect may not advance beyond a certain point, his or her body will continue to develop. He or she will experience natural urges like peers of the same age. It’s important to explain as much as possible what is happening to their bodies.

For those who may not feel comfortable talking about this subject with their children, DDS can assist with referrals to the appropriate services.

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