ADDED ON: 12/25/2021

Understanding the plight of Intersex

12/24/2021 | The Star

In our society, the intersex have always had to face stigma as well as discrimination because of the misconceptions that are imbedded in the minds of the community. Despite the numerous awareness campaigns conducted by different groups such as the human rights defenders, this gender which is different from the normal male/female category, is still battling for their rights by the community. One thing that is obvious is the fact that the society is ignorant and therefore inclined to believe that intersexuality is an option, which is not the case. Intersex or Disorders of Sex Development (DSDs), is a term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. An intersex person is born with any of the several variations in physical and sex characteristics such as those of the chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals which do not fit the typical definitions for male (XY) or female (XX) bodies according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In biology, Intersex is an organism that has physical characteristics intermediate between a true male and a true female of its species. The condition usually results from extra chromosomes or a hormonal abnormality during embryological development. Intersex traits in humans are usually visible at birth while in others, they are not obvious until puberty and in few cases, some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically obvious at all. A child may be born with an ambiguous genitalia which is a condition in which an infant’s external genitals do not appear to be clearly male or female. In a baby, the development of the genitals may be incomplete or he/she may have characteristics of both sexes, where the external sex organs may not match the genetic sex or internal sex organs. According to medical encyclopedia, there are various categories of intersex such as 46, XX; 46, XY; true gonadal intersex; and complex or undetermined intersex. 46, XX intersex has female chromosomes and ovaries but with external genitals that appear to be of a male. This person in most cases has a normal uterus and fallopian tubes. It is said that there are many possible causes including exposure to excess male hormones before birth by a pregnant woman, male-hormone producing tumors most often ovarian tumors, aromatase deficiency which is an enzyme that converts male hormones to female hormones (aromatase), among others. A person with 46, XY intersex category, also medically known as 46, XY undervirilisation, usually has chromosomes of a man but with external genitals that are incompletely formed, ambiguous or clearly female. He may have normal, malformed or absent testes. True gonadal intersex, is where a person has both ovarian and testicular tissue. The external genitals may be ambiguous or may appear female or male. For years, the Intersex persons have been living in isolation in a bid to avoid societal taunts. They have never enjoyed their rights as humans and instead have been violated against. A baseline survey on intersex realities in East Africa, 2015-2016 by the Support Initiative for People with Congenital Disorders (SIPD), shows that in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, intersex children face many challenges as a result of superstition where they are believed to be witches or victims of witchcraft. The adults face discrimination as well as physical and sexual harassments. They also suffer from lack of adequate and affordable health care. The survey highlighted that 90% of the interviewed intersex teenagers were forced to drop out of school due to discrimination either by teachers or fellow students. The baseline survey also indicated that with the birth of an intersex child, the community sees it as a punishment for the mother who is looked down on and may even be excluded from the society. In Kenya, the 2019 census revealed that there are a total of 1,524 intersex persons, though it is reported that the number could be higher but because of fear of the society, some parents opt to hide the truth pertaining to the gender of their children.

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