October 18th 2017

Top Stories / National

Campaigners call for 'third gender' as Kenya marks World Intersex Day

Ms Nyaundi added that they will ensure that before the end of the year they will have made legislative changes to ensure that the law caters for male and female as well as intersex gender.

By Soilan Kenanaskenana@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 26 Oct 2016 20:11 EAT

Part of the procession to Parliament Buldings goes through Parliament Road. (Photo: Soilan Kenana/Kenya Free Press).

Kenya marked the World Intersex Awareness Day with a march by tens of people in Nairobi to sensitise the country on the plight of intersex persons. Those who turned up in solidarity with the intersex people urged Kenyans to take time to understand the life challenges of the people.

Intersex is a condition in which a person is born with a reproductive organ that does not seem to fit the typical binary notions of either male or female bodies. Intersex humans experience variations such as genital ambiguity and combination of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype

The World Intersex Day was marked without any government representative, which went to show the distance human rights campaigners still need to travel to bring their issues to the mainstream of human rights dialogue. Intersex persons go through discrimination and ridicule in the society. Amongst the people who showed up to campaign for the rights of the group included ODM Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura, GAMA Africa representative- Gathoni wa Muchomba, Kenya National Commission for Human Rights secretary Patricia Nyaundi, lawyer John Chigiti, MCAs, parents and teachers.

Speaking at a press briefing outside Parliament Buildings, Ms Nyaundi highlighted that there should be a legislation that recognizes the intersex as a third gender. “Intersex community represents persons and therefore are entitled to all the rights as articulated in chapter 5 of the constitution,” she said. Ms Nyaundi added that they will ensure that before the end of the year they will have made legislative changes to ensure that the law caters for male and female as well as intersex gender. She said Kenya should have laws that recognize all human persons in whichever form they represent themselves, explaining for example that birth certificates should have the options of "male, female or other."

On his part, Mr Mwaura promised to champion for the legislation that will recognize the intersex persons in the constitution of Kenya. He also urged the Kenyan National Examination Council, which administers national matriculation exams for basic and middle school, to mark certificates for intersex persons as 'intersex'. He said the intersex have a right to a name, change of name and education.

Ms Cecilia Wanjiru, a parent who has an intersex child who was brought up as a boy, described how her son started transitioning after joining high school. She recalled how the son would drop out of school frequently whenever he experienced menstrual periods. He was later expelled from the school.

Another victim, Ryan Muiruri, described the discrimination he had endured for being intersex. His birth name is Ruth Wangui and he was brought up as a girl up to age 14 when he started transitioning. He dropped out of school because he was constantly discriminated against. He was once arrested at a bank in Limuru after being accused of impersonation. Ryan says that in 2013, he was denied his voting rights and told to go get an ID.

The systemic challenges intersex community faces include not having proper registration details since they are on the borderline of acceptable gender norms. They are also forced to drop out of school and face acceptance issues by society. Due to the pressure that they get, some undergo surgery to ‘rectify’ their condition, some are successful but those who are unfortunate end up experiencing post-surgery side effects such as urinary incontinence.

Gertrude Kirenga contributed reporting for this article.

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