Last week, an Australian woman with multiple sclerosis applied for sex therapy to be covered under her National Disability Insurance Scheme – and she won.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled that, in this instance, the woman should have access to a sexual therapist, as it’s the “only help she can usefully have to reach sexual release”.
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Now, advocates are hoping the decision provides the National Disability Insurance Agency with a framework to develop some much needed policy in this area.
Saul Isbister, president of sex worker advocacy organisation, Touching Base, said sex therapists don’t provide sex work services, but sex workers often provide therapeutic outcomes for their clients through their services.
“These services are provided by sex workers, some of whom have been trained by Touching Base in honing and further developing their skills in working with people with disability.”
‘We argue that every adult, with a disability or not, has a human right to seek consensual sexual expression.”
“The tribunal decision did not go far enough”
But while the NDIS will be forced to extend its funding to sex therapists, some are arguing that’s just not enough, and if sex workers are often providing sexual therapy, the funding should extend to sex workers, too.
Associate professor at the College of Healthcare Sciences at James Cook University, Matthew Yau, argued in a piece for The Conversation that people with disabilities should be able to access sex workers under the NDIS.
“While we can choose our sexual partners and the ways we express and satisfy our own sexual needs, these things can be more challenging for people with disabilities.
“This is due in a large part to social prejudices and discrimination,” he said.
“In this sense, the tribunal decision did not go far enough. It should have recognised not only sex therapy, but also that the service of sex workers may be required by some people with disability.”
But the NDIS isn’t so keen on the idea.
Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, said the NDIS didn’t cover the “sexual services, sexual therapy or sex workers” because that is “not in line with community expectations of what are reasonable and necessary supports” for people with a disability.
However, Yau argues “sexual expression and intimacy” are basic human needs, and “should be equally recognised among people with and without disability as facilitating improved quality of life”.
The NDIS has indicated it will appeal the AAT’s decision.
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