HUMAN RIGHTS: Intersex persons call for protection

Representatives from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) conducts a public awaress campaign on the rights of intersex persons in Homa Bay Town on October 16, 2021. PHOTO/George Omondi, The Scholar Media Africa.

Naturally, every parent wants to have a “perfect child”, whether male or female.

Confusion in gender during birth has been an issue in some families.

The first question after birth has always been whether a child is a male or a female.

Parents, especially those who give birth to intersex children get discriminated.

Other families break up because of this.

In some communities, intersex children were traditionally considered as bad omen and were even killed.

In the contemporary world however, there are laws protecting everyone and no child should be killed because of gender.

Nevertheless, intersex persons still face a lot of challenges including ‘discrimination’ by the government.

Intersex persons are not recognized by the national registration bureau. 

That is why IDs and birth certificates only have two options for gender- either male or female.

The group is now calling on the government to address these issues because of the huge gap in promoting their rights.

We got an opportunity to speak to some intersex persons who agreed to share their experiences as they engage in their daily activities.

‘Andrew Grace’ grew up knowing s/he was a girl.

S/he would put on dresses lie other girls and has a birth certificate and an ID showing that s/he is a female.

S/he even shared the same dormitory with girls at high school.

But at form four, the 26-year-old intersex started putting on trousers.

This is after noticing that s/he had more male features than those of a female.

Today, Grace is having difficulties accessing basic needs especially in public places because of the confusion in his/her gender.

At a glance, his/her body shape shows that Grace is a female.

His/her voice is also that of a female.

Grace’s dressing however shows a different identity.

“I like putting on trousers and shirts like men because I consider myself male.

My male sex organ became proactive after high school when all along I considered myself a female.

Throughout my childhood, I never thought this could happen,” s/he says.

S/he is among thousands of intersex persons who are going through difficulties including rejection by family members or lovers and abuse from members of the public.

Grace’s nightmares usually come when accessing public places like supermarkets and public toilets.

Most of these places are either marked male or female.

To intersex people like Grace, no space is available for them in such places.

“I have been turned away when I produce my identity card which reads I am a female when the physical looks show that I am a male. I have been accused of using some else’s ID because of this confusion,” s/he says.

‘James Claire’ is also an intersex underdoing worse challenges.

S/he has spent multiple nights in the streets after being rejected by friends.

His/her miseries started after being an orphan in 2011.

Immediately, his/her mother was lowered into the grave, Claire ’s siblings sent him/her away forcing him/her to terminate his education at form four.

His/her physical appearance and behavior brought confusion in the family.

“Until now I do not know whether I am a male or a female. To be safe, I put on partially as a male and as a female,” Claire says.

Every month, she experiences menses like ordinary females.

But his/her bleeding is very painful and s/he has to seek medical attention from time to time.

Recently at a hospital, Clair was turned away after asking for help from a doctor specializing in female issues.

“I got a chance to be attended to at another hospital. But doctors there were confused on how to handle my condition.

They kept on discussing about me because none of them could tell whether I am a man or a woman,” s/he says.

Claire is today appealing for financial support to undergo hormonal therapy which s/he says should have started much earlier.

According to the intersex, his/her condition makes it difficult to access basic needs which may lead to depression and eventually death.

That is why the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) is conducting a public awaress campaign on intersex persons.

The commission is also disseminating the Intersex Persons Taskforce Report findings.

This will enable members of the public to embrace the group.

During the 2019 Housing & Population Census by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the Government approved the introduction of the 3rd Sex Marker known as Intersex Persons which is as a result of birth and not by choice.
Kenya had 1524 intersex persons as per the last census.
According to KNCHR however, there is evident the number of intersex persons in the country could be higher.
KNCHR Western Region’s representative Beryl Orao said discrimination and stigma in the community makes most intersex persons to shy away. 
She said the program seeks to educate members of the public on the existence of intersex persons so that they can promote and protect their privacy rights.
“The commission has realised that intersex persons are being discriminated and their rights are violated due to the nature of their gender.

There is need to create public awareness to reduce such cases,” Ms Orao said.
She said the group has been facing a lot of challenges while seeking essential services from both the government and non-state organs.

She spoke during a stakeholders meeting in Homa Bay town that brought together government duty bearers, representatives of Intersex Persons Society of Kenya recently.

Parents of intersex children also got a chance to be given the report of the taskforce on the policy, legal institutional and administrative reforms regarding the intersex persons in Kenya.

The taskforce was formed by Attorney General Kihara Kariuki in 2018.

It recommends the recognition of intersex in law.

The report says this could be realized through the introduction of an intersex (I) marker in all official documents that require identification of sex.

“This calls for amendment and introduction of a comprehensive definition of who an intersex person is.

More specifically, this requires the amendment of Interpretation and General Provision Act, Cap 2,” reads part of the report.

Homa-Bay Township location Chief Joshua Ochogo called on members of the community to embrace intersex persons.

“They should be viewed as normal people with constitutional rights,” he said.

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the persons interviewed.

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