Kenya’s intersex persons still pushing for law to allow third gender on ID


Kenya's intersex persons still pushing for law to allow third gender on ID
An enumerator arrives to record details of a family participating in the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census at the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

In Summary

  • Some parents opt to have surgery performed on their intersex children at a young age to avoid ridicule.
  • Many intersex adults say their lives have been scarred by such operations.
  • Intersex children have been shunned by their families and bullied at school.
  • Adults have struggled to get jobs and faced physical abuse.

As the world marked Intersex Awareness Day on Monday, Kenya’s records of such persons stands at 1,524.

Kenya became the first African country to recognise its intersex population in its population census.

The move was intended to help end stigma and recognise the rights of intersex people who face challenges in accessing healthcare and education, Senator Isaac Mwaura told Reuters.

In Embu County, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) reports that there are 24 intersex persons.

21-year-old Syideny Etemesi from Kakamega county is one of them and reveals that life still remains difficult despite the census move.

According to Etemesi, some intersex children are killed as they are not recognised in the community.

Other parents opt to have surgery performed on their intersex children at a young age to avoid ridicule.

Many intersex adults say their lives have been scarred by such operations, Reuters reports.

Human rights activists say intersex children have been shunned by their families and bullied at school and adults have struggled to get jobs and faced physical abuse.

Etemesi intimated similar challenges particularly when the community discovered Etemesi had experienced menstruation.

Etemesi is urging the government to introduce their status as a third gender in official documents as a way to help them be recognized and accepted.

Deputy Director KNHRC Veronica Mwangi echoed this sentiment saying the law should be changed to accommodate intersex persons and end discrimination.

She urged Kenyans to embrace intersex persons as they play a critical role in development of the country.

Senator Mwaura is pushing for such a law.

“We want to deconstruct that mindset where people have been really fixated around the binary separation between a male and a female,” Mwaura, who is also patron of the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya, told Reuters.

He said he expected opposition to the bill because many lawmakers associate intersex people with homosexuality which is outlawed in Kenya.

Additional report from Reuters

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