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Sexual services Disabled sex "assistants" tackle taboo

Sexuality is a "basic right" for all people

(Keystone)

A welfare group offering sexual relief for the disabled plans to take the service a step further by training professional "assistants" to provide full intercourse.

The idea of professional sexual services for the disabled has been revived following a failed scheme in Zurich three years ago that had to be scrapped after a public outcry.

Basel-based Welfare Group Disabled and Sexuality (Fabs) already arranges erotic massage in the German speaking part of Switzerland, but wants to offer penetrative sex, also for homosexuals, as part of its services next March.

"It's a big taboo and we have to break this taboo," Fab leader Aiha Zemp told swissinfo. "Sexuality is a basic human need like eating and drinking and we have to fight for this right.

"In Switzerland a lot of disabled people cannot have this right because it is practically forbidden by the arguments against it.

"There is a big difference when you go the Netherlands, for example, where sexual assistance has existed for 35 years without negative publicity."

Fabs was created in May this year, partly funded by a federal government grant and partly from charitable donations.

Zemp stressed that sexual assistance is only a small part of the organisation's work that also includes counselling, advice, education and campaigning.

Erotic touching

At present three men and a woman offer an erotic touching service, but more assistants are being trained to offer full sex at SFr150 ($123) per hour.

"The big difference between the assistants and prostitutes is that the assistants show tenderness and are conscious of the needs of the disabled, rather than rushing and just taking the money," Zemp said.

"We give the guarantee that they are more than just prostitutes because they have a special education and know how to communicate properly."

Fab took on the task of helping disabled people with their sexual needs when the Zurich branch of the charity Pro Infirmis dropped the idea in 2003 after donations started to dry up.

Opponent

One former opponent of the aborted Pro Infirmis scheme, psychologist Peter Wehrli, told swissinfo that he was unhappy with the way it was being presented at the time.

"This is prostitution and it should be sold as such without trying to hide the facts," said the leader of Zurich-based group Centre for Independent Living. "I have nothing against prostitution as long as it is between two consenting adults.

"Fabs is a general advice centre for sexuality that addresses a lot of issues. Sex for money is just one issue and should not be sold as a solution, but as only one technique that can be used in certain circumstances."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

In brief

Sexual services for the disabled is well established in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

Pro Infirmis brought in Dutch expert Nina de Vries in 2003 to run training programmes in Zurich in 2003, but the plan was later shelved, despite the group promising not to use charitable donations to fund the scheme.

end of infobox

Key facts

Fabs was set up with the help of a SFr175,000 grant from the Interior Ministry, SFr50,000 from the two Basel cantons and a further SFr20,000 from charitable donations.
The federal grant came with no guarantee of renewal next year, and Zemp estimates the organisation will need SFr320,000 to survive in 2007.

end of infobox

swissinfo.ch


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