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Love, sex and romance for everyone

Own voice:Nidhi Goyal rejects the notion that there is any sort of catharsis in using comedy.  

Nidhi Goyal, a disability and gender rights activist, laments in her Yahoo article ‘Why Should Disability Spell The End of Romance’: “Love, sex and romantic relationships are for everyone, whether or not you have a disability. It’s really high time people started accepting that.”

The article rightfully went viral a few years ago.

Goyal has been working in the field of disability and gender rights for the past six years now. Goyal’s prolific activism works at the conjuncture of gender and disability and includes everything from research and writing to campaigning and advocacy; all in order to better the lives of women with disabilities. She is the Program Director at Point of View (an NGO dealing with women’s right issues, set up in 1997 by activist Bishakha Datta) and also works with Human Rights Watch and CREA to push issues that women with disabilities face into the mainstream.

More recently, she has researched and co-authored a pioneering online initiative, a resource on disability, gender, sexuality and violence for which has expanded to include training across India and across impairments.

Over the last year though, Goyal has made her foray in a very different stream: stand-up comedy.

A sharp and effortlessly witty woman, Goyal would narrate anecdotes of the experiences she had as a disabled woman to her friends with hilarious aplomb. Compelled by her hilarity, Goyal’s friend Pramada Menon insisted on her joining the next stand-up set she was going to do. A gender rights activist herself, Menon garnered a lot of attention for her stand-up set, ‘Fat, Feminist and Free’. And so, Goyal found herself at her first stand-up show ‘Can You See Me Now?’ in Kolkata.

The response to her act, in which Goyal narrates her experiences as a disabled woman, was terrific. “Some people came to me afterwards and told me I made them feel like crap. They were smiling when they said this though.” she laughs. Encouraged by the reception, she performed the set at shows in Geneva and Nepal and is now performing a subset of it, dealing with sexuality and disability, for the ‘Sex and Sexability’ show today. The show will be hosted by popular comedian Aditi Mittal and will also feature sets by comedians Rohan Sabharwala, Neenu Kewlani, Robyn Lambird and Chubby Methalaka.

When asked why she chose to use comedy as a medium to raise awareness, Goyal says: “The fun of being disabled is to be able to see the humour in the ignorance and misconceptions and perceptions that layer people’s minds. Of course it is frustrating, annoying but beyond a point it stops being that. It becomes ridiculous and hilarious that many people around you are not inclusive and quite frankly many a times when prejudices are exhibited, I find them laughable.” But Goyal rejects the naive notion that there is any sort of catharsis in using comedy. She says, “I do not consciously make it cathartic. As an empowered woman with a disability and a zest to change things, I can joke about my experiences. But at the end of the day, these are serious issues.”

Given that India has such a long way to go in terms of removing stigma around disability and providing equal access to all, Goyal surmises that while things are changing, they are not happening as fast as one would ideally hope for. Yet, there’s a crowd of voices bringing the experiences of the disabled to the fore, urging non-disabled people to recognise that, among other things, disability doesn’t change the fact that we are all sexual beings.

Sex and Sexability: today at 7 p.m. at the Daughters of St. Paul auditorium. Tickets are priced at Rs. 200 and are available at

The author is a freelance writer

The fun of being disabled is to be able to see the humour in the ignorance and misconceptions and perceptions that layer people’s minds

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 9:36:27 AM |

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