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James Karanja, Author at Intersex Persons Society of Kenya

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July 13, 2020by James Karanja

The birth of a new baby is one of the greatest wonders of nature and one of the most exciting events known to man. The first question that is usually posed by the mother or father is “is it a boy or a girl”, without this information the new parents cannot even formulate the second question which is usually “is he/she alright?

Being born as a male or a female in the African society comes with a lot of expectations be it; political, religious, cultural or social. These expectations are largely the basis of the inequality and prejudices we experience in the society such as gender violence, it’s even worse for an intersex child whose role cannot be defined immediately they are born.

Women who give birth to intersex children are often considered to be witches or victims of witchcraft, and the intersex children are considered a bad omen to the family, which should be gotten rid of. The ridding takes the form of murders or abandonment. Many women are abandoned by their husbands and in-laws due to the news of such a birth. Most mothers of intersex children dump and abandon their intersex children for dead in pit latrines and lonely forest areas and run from their homes for fear of possible prejudice-driven crimes towards them by family or community members. It’s so unfortunate that the Kenyan society has always responded with denial, hostility and at best, silence, on these matters pertaining to sexual development and related health and rights concern.

The initial treatment of an intersex birth in Kenya will often be silence and secrecy. The family will isolate the child from the general public. In most cases, the mothers of such children will be frowned upon. Usually, superstations loom large as their families consult witchdoctors, mediums and traditional healers for a solution. In many instances, the mother will work with either a traditional medicine practitioner or some other ally to kill the child

In trying to fix the appearance of children’s genitals, grave mutilations have occurred, which have left these children scarred and dysfunctional for life – for most with no chance of ever getting these errors corrected. This is because there is overwhelming pressure at all levels (family, community, spiritual, cultural, and political) to have a child with a body that conforms to the normative “male” or “female” body. A pressure so overwhelming that parents will often kill their intersex babies or surrender them to harmful mutilations.

The approach that is used by the “elite” is a concealment approach where an intersex child will be hidden and “offered” up for surgery without warranting them, and without proper surgical or psycho-social support facilities.

Recent research has demonstrated that the parents of intersex babies are often ill-informed and baffled. Medical professionals may be quick to propose “corrective” surgeries and treatments aiming to “normalise” the sex of the child. Such surgeries, which are cosmetic rather than medically necessary, are often performed on intersex babies and toddlers. This can result in irreversible sex assignment and sterilisation performed without the fully informed consent of the parents and, even more importantly, without the consent of intersex persons themselves.

“Corrective” operations and treatment are usually traumatising and humiliating. They can take a long time and post-operative complications are common. There are long-term effects on intersex individuals’ mental health and well-being. The sex assigned to children at an early age may not correspond with their identity and feelings later on.

In addition, medical services are rarely transparent about the statistics of operations performed on intersex individuals and even the people treated experience difficulties in accessing their own medical records.

 

In conclusion

Although laws have been the most used tool to advance human rights, such issues discussed above might need a change of the said tools to be achieved. Such social problems would require social solutions. These social solutions may be achieved through social re-engineering in which intersex activists must take the central role to help change the harmful mindset, that has been in existence for so long in the societies that we live in depriving intersex children their peaceful existence.

There is a need for international and regional children’s bodies in Africa to include intersex children in their programming. This will ensure that there is more visibility of the intersex children and their rights to be easily realized and protected.


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June 16, 2020by James Karanja

Today as we commemorate the day of the African Child, We applaud the 30th Anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). We acknowledge the tremendous efforts done by different states in Africa and others actors to ensure the rights of the children are protected and promoted.

We call upon states and civil societies to acknowledge that children as a community are not homogenous and therefore different set or a group of children requires different approach to their problems for example intersex children and children with disabilities, In these regards we are calling all the actors to ensure that no child is left behind.

We call upon the state to ensure that;

 

  • Intersex children access required legal documentation such as birth notifications and birth certificates
  • To put an end to infanticide and killings of intersex children led by traditional and religious beliefs in most parts of the country
  • To put an end to mutilating and ‘normalising’ practices such as genital surgeries, psychological and other medical treatments through legislative and other means (such as education, policy and treatment protocol change). Intersex children must be empowered to make their own decisions affecting their own bodily integrity, physical autonomy and self-determination.
  • To include intersex education in antenatal counselling and support for the parents
  • To put an end to non-consensual sterilisation of intersex children.
  • To ensure that sex or gender classifications are amendable through a simple administrative procedure at the request of the individuals concerned. All adults and capable minors should be able to choose between female (F), male (M), or intersex ..
  • To raise awareness around intersex issues and the rights of intersex children in communities and society at large.
  • To create and facilitate supportive, safe and celebratory environments for intersex children, their families and surroundings.
  • To ensure that intersex parents have the right to full information and access to medical records and history.
  • To ensure that all professionals and healthcare providers that have a specific role to play in intersex children’s well-being are adequately trained to provide quality services.
  • To acknowledge the suffering and injustice caused to intersex children.
  • To build intersex anti-discrimination legislation in addition to other grounds, and to ensure protection against intersectional discrimination.
  • To ensure the provision of all human rights and citizenship rights to intersex children, including the right to adoption and be adopted .
  • To ensure that intersex children are able to participate in competitive sport, at all levels, in accordance with their legal sex. Intersex children athletes who have been humiliated or stripped of their titles should receive reparation and reinstatement.
  • To recognise that medicalization and stigmatisation of intersex children result in significant trauma and mental health concerns.
  • In view of ensuring the bodily integrity and well-being of intersex people, autonomous non-pathologising psycho-social and peer support be available to intersex people throughout their life (as self-required), as well as to parents and/or care providers.