Opinion Paper

Deafening silence on a vital issue: The World Health Organization has ignored the sexuality of persons with disabilities

Christine Peta
African Journal of Disability | Vol 7 | a474 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v7i0.474 | © 2018 Christine Peta | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 December 2017 | Published: 16 July 2018

About the author(s)

Christine Peta, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


In 2016, the World Health Organization, through the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology Initiative, issued the Priority Assistive Products List which is meant to be a guide to member states of the 50 assistive products needed for a basic health care and/or social welfare system; it is also a model from which nations can develop their national priority assistive products lists. The aim of this opinion paper is to share my views about the Priority Assistive Products List on the grounds that it makes no distinct mention of sexual assistive devices, yet research has indicated that sexuality is an area of great concern for persons with disabilities. In any case, sexuality forms a core part of being human, and it impacts on both the physical and mental well-being of all human beings. I conclude in part that, in its present format, the list perpetuates the myth that persons with disabilities are asexual beings who are innocent of sexual thoughts, feelings and experiences. The list also propagates the stereotype that sexuality is a sacred, private, bedroom matter that should be kept out of the public domain, to the detriment of the health and well-being of persons with disabilities.


Sexuality; disability; WHO; Priority Assistive Products List


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Crossref Citations

1. The Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy in Rural Bangladesh: A Qualitative Analysis
Rosalie Power, Eamin Heanoy, Manik Chandra Das, Tasneem Karim, Mohammad Muhit, Nadia Badawi, Gulam Khandaker
Archives of Sexual Behavior  vol: 52  issue: 4  first page: 1689  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1007/s10508-023-02535-4