Third Eye

Create policies to protect interests of intersex persons

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021 05:00 | By
Intersex. Photo/Courtesy

Doris Kathia       

The Constitution states that every person is equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection by the law. However, not all seem to be privileged to enjoy these rights. 

Intersex individuals rights continue to be violated and silenced. When a mother gives birth she is excited until she finds out the baby has sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the boxes of female or male. 

Many times the doctors do surgeries on intersex children to make their bodies fit binary ideas of male or female a choice probably made by the parents depending on the gender they wished for not knowing that some of these children ultimately reject their gender assignment when they are grown.

Just because sex characteristics do not meet medical and social norms, choosing a gender for someone who cannot express themselves is a human right violation.

Gender identity is emotionally attached hence, this brings up questions about whether or not it’s okay to do medical procedures on children’s bodies when it’s not needed for their health.

When we talk about protection of human rights as a basic need, we mean that everyone is able to live free from harm. Unfortunately, for intersex people it is not the case. 

Just like everyone else, intersex people need health care access. But they may be denied necessary care and discriminated in health care settings once their atypical anatomy is known.

Intersex issues have been framed as matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, rather than natural sex characteristics leading to a rhetoric of inclusion that is unmatched by the reality. 

 The child’s interests, not parents, should be the primary consideration in decisions regarding invasive medical procedures. 

 Misinformation and directive counseling on sex normalising prevents parents from learning about options for postponing permanent surgery interventions.

Parents often consent to surgery on their children in circumstances where full information is not given, or pressure may be applied by service providers or parents themselves may feel discomfort with their child’s body difference.

The Kenya Task force on Policy, Legal, Institutional and Administrative Reforms Regarding Intersex Persons constituted in 2017 need to put across measures to address the plight of intersex persons and ensure that the rights of intersex persons are upheld to non-discrimination and affirmed their right to protection from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by holding that intersex persons are protected under Article 27 (4) of the Constitution. 

The government needs to create policies that will make intersex persons feel comfortable and ensure they receive care that affirms them and their choices about their bodies.

Visibility of intersex people continues to be far too low, therefore, there is an urgent need to protect the human rights of intersex people.

To ensure intersex inclusion, the government needs to create and facilitate supportive, safe and conducive environments for intersex people, their families and surroundings by enacting anti-discrimination legislation protecting the ground of sex characteristics and ensuring that intersex people are protected against intersectional discrimination. 

In situations where the new-born child’s sex is unclear,  gender-neutral marker in identity documents like birth registration and certificates should be considered. 

We need to prevent medically unnecessary sex-normalising surgeries without informed consent.

This can be achieved by collecting data and understanding the experiences of intersex people and also raising awareness about intersex persons. —The writer is a Sexual and reproductive health rights  advocate

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