Should governments pay for sex for the disabled?

Bioedge

Michael Cook

Most social work students probably do not imagine that their career might require them to play the pander. But finding prostitutes for disabled clients is sometimes part of the job description, even though both the legality and morality of this practice are disputed. Another voice was added this week to long-simmering debate in the pages of the Journal of Medical Ethics over this issue.

Back in 2009 Dr Jacob M. Appel, a New York psychiatrist with a flair for controversy, argued that “sexual pleasure as a fundamental right that should be available to all”. Hence, if the disabled were unable to experience this, the government should step in and provide subsidised prostitution. “As a society, we also provide food for those who cannot feed themselves—even delivering it to their homes, when required. Sexual pleasure ought not be viewed any differently.”

Dr Appel acknowledged that he supports neonatal euthanasia for severely disabled infants. However, he contends, if society has erred in allowing these children to life, it is a matter of justice to offer them the possibility of sexual pleasure.

In 2011 Dr Ezio Di Nucci, of the University of Duisburg-Essen weighed in. He agreed that severely disabled individuals should be helped to satisfy their sexual interests. But he questioned whether this should happen at the public expense. He proposed instead that “the sexual interests and needs of the severely disabled be met by charitable non-profit organisations, whose members would voluntarily and freely provide sexual pleasure to the severely disabled”. He thinks that this is superior to Appel’s proposal because, amongst other reasons, it would not require the legalisation of prostitution.

A powerful argument against providing the disabled with sexual services is that it assumes a regime of legalised prostitution – which many feel is demeaning and harmful to women. The most recent contributor to the debate, Dr Frej Klem Thomsen, of Roskilde University, in Denmark, tackles this problem. He says that the issue is complex and unclear, but that there seems to be sufficient justification for allowed a legal exception. In other words, prostitutes could service the disabled, but only the disabled.


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Prostitution, disability and prohibition

J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102215

Frej Klem Thomsen

Abstract

Criminalisation of prostitution, and minority rights for disabled persons, are important contemporary political issues. The article examines their intersection by analysing the conditions and arguments for making a legal exception for disabled persons to a general prohibition against purchasing sexual services. It explores the badness of prostitution, focusing on and discussing the argument that prostitution harms prostitutes, considers forms of regulation and the arguments for and against with emphasis on a liberty-based objection to prohibition, and finally presents and analyses three arguments for a legal exception, based on sexual rights, beneficence, and luck egalitarianism, respectively. It concludes that although the general case for and against criminalisation is complicated there is a good case for a legal exception. [Full text]

Italian bill would fund ‘sex assistants’ for the disabled

LifeSite News

Hilary White

ROME – Italy’s Senate is considered a bill introduced in April that would mandate the government to offer “sexual assistants” to people with physical, mental or cognitive disabilities.

The bill, which would bring Italy in line with other EU countries, proposes that these “assistants” should be male and female professional “sex workers” who would help their clients gain “erotic, sensual or sexual experience and better address their internal energies” in order to help them “discharge dysfunctional feelings of anger and aggression.”

Disabled Italians will be eligible for government-funded “sex assistants” through the Ministry of Health. They must have reached the age of majority, have completed the “compulsory education” program, signed a code of conduct, and be certified as to their “psycho-sexual suitability” by the local health authority. . . [Full text]