The right of people with Down's syndrome to have an independent love life with access to sexual health information is the theme of a new campaign launched by Italian charity CoorDown for World Down Syndrome Day 2022.
The awareness group has created a short video called Just the Two of Us which tells in a hyperbolic way how families, especially when it comes to love relationships, can become a cumbersome presence in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. The strapline of the video is “Love needs space”.
- Further reading: Sex and relationships education for people with intellectual disabilities and with autism
Antonella Falugiani, president of CoorDown ODV, said: "Undoubtedly sexuality is a thorny issue, shrouded in taboos that have deep cultural roots, but it is also a topic that we, as representatives of people with Down syndrome, wanted to address because it is not only the recognition of a right, but also the recognition of a need. There are several barriers, which may be more or less manifest, that hinder the sexual and emotional development of people with intellectual disabilities, and thus limit their psychophysical wellbeing, and it is now high time we try and tear them down.
“People with Down Syndrome are neither “asexual angels”, nor are they “demons” who cannot control their urges. By staging an ironic paradox, the movie “Just The Two of Us” will allow us to start the ball rolling and address a very delicate topic, to then outline a constructive guided pathway to sexuality that can give young adults with Down syndrome adequate tools and help both families, carers and support workers.”
Sex for people with a learning disability remains a taboo
The charity says that having a love affair and living your sexuality to the fullest is everyone's right, yet for people with intellectual disabilities it still remains a taboo. This is because people with Down's syndrome are often considered to be "eternal children", and as such, they are protected or kept away from all things to do with adulthood, including sexuality.
The campaign website also provides sexual health information to help support people with intellectual disabilities to understand their rights, know their body, the concepts of "consent" and "safe sex" and to protect them from potential abuse.
The protagonists of the campaign are Kenya Koene and Liam de Waele , two young Dutch people aged 20 and 21, who met on the set of a web series and are together in real life.
The international campaign was created with the contribution of Down's Syndrome Association (UK) and Down Syndrome Australia, partner of CoorDown since 2015, and sponsored by DSi - Down Syndrome International and the Cariplo Foundation.