Sexual Autonomy Matters: Marginalization of Central Experiences for Women with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Tanzania

Author(s): Bijal Dipak Lal
Final project
Year of publication:
Supervisors: S.M. Rodrigues


Sexual autonomy, the agency to make an informed decision regarding one’s sexual experiences, is a fundamental right for all individuals, yet Women with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (WwIDD) are often excluded from this experience. This essay examines what barriers exist and impact the sexual autonomy of WwIDD in Tanzania using a feminist reflexive and autoethnographic methodology. The historical accounts of the disability rights movements are introduced, and the current shifts within the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) category are highlighted. The essay discusses a global understanding of the sexual autonomy of WwIDD and presents the Tanzanian context, including its divergence in labeling the disability categories, the legislative gaps, and the impact of language. The theoretical frameworks used are intersectionality and the matrix of domination, the disability justice framework, and the Ubuntu philosophy. The barriers to sexual autonomy identified are cultural misconceptions, differential access to social rights, increased instances of violence & abuse, and the capacity of WwIDD to consent. Finally, recommendations on strengthening the self-advocacy movement, building cross-movement alliances, advocating for improved disability data, and government accountability are suggested.