Mary Waithera, now known as James Karanja, says intersex people still face stigma


Mary Waithera, now known as James Karanja, says intersex people still face stigma
Mary Waithera. Photo | COURTESY

Mary Waithera, who was born intersex was misidentified as male or female and sometimes even called names.

Waithera intimated her plight of trying to fit into a society where the mindset of binary separation is male or female.

“I went to a girls boarding school and I remember very well that day because the other girls said at one time, ‘tumeletewa boy’ and from then on, my sense told me there was something amiss,” Waithera told Citizen Digital.

Intersex is scientifically described as a person born with ambiguous genitalia, gonads or reproductive organs with mixed chromosomes or hormones not within the typical binary of male or female.

Waithera narrated how at one point there were contemplations of suicide because of feelings of neglect, embarrassment and ridicule.

“People attempted to undress me in public but when they saw what was between my legs they came back to apologise but it was too late,” Waithera added.

Waithera who is now known as James Karanja says the life of an intersex is tough as they fight for their place in this world without a well-defined gender.

“People wonder why Mary is in a suit and with a deep voice, the reason it’s because I am an intersex person,” Waithera intimated.

A report by the United Nations Office of Human Rights revealed that in every population, there are 0.05 to 1.7percent of children born intersex.

These percentages would put the numbers of intersex people between 24,000 and 800,000 according to the KNBS estimate of Kenya’s population of 47.8 million last year.

Some campaigners have been against registration of the intersex category during the census.

However, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) still pushed for their inclusion.

Kenya becomes the first African country to include the third category in this year’s census that will run from August 24 to 31.

According to KNBS, the move will ensure equality of provision for educational needs, communal identity and medical healthcare as well as eradication of stigmatisation.

Article 27 protects all persons from discrimination due to their sex or birth among other parameters,.

However, like Waithera, a large group of intersex people say they are still widely discriminated.

“Intersex children have been shunned by their families and bullied at school and adults have struggled to get jobs and even faced physical abuse,” said intersex rights campaigners.

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Story By Wangui Ngechu
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