Halt corrective surgery for intersex children — task force

Says babies are subjected to surgery to 'make them normal' yet they are born okay

In Summary

• The team wants the surgeries stopped unless the case is a medical emergency.

• It also recommends intersex made a third gender, and intersex people be counted as such in the coming census.

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura leads a march to Parliament to celebrate the International Day of the Intersex Child for the first time in Kenya, October 26, 2016
Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura leads a march to Parliament to celebrate the International Day of the Intersex Child for the first time in Kenya, October 26, 2016
Image: FILE

The task force on Policy, Legal, Institutional and Administrative Reforms Regarding Intersex Persons wants corrective surgery halted until intersex children can make informed decisions. 

It recommends in a report released yesterday that the surgeries only be allowed in case of a medical emergency. 

This follows a discovery by Peter Maingi that the testis of his son, born eight years ago is empty. 

The parents got curious because the boy’s genitalia appeared smaller than normal. After a physical check, they found the testis had no testicles. 

As any parent would, Maingi and his wife got distraught and sought medical examination.

The father of three yesterday told the Star that a scan later revealed that the boy had two ovaries in his lower abdomen but no womb. 

He did not have female genitalia either. 

“This was very confounding news to me and my wife. My wife actually collapsed at this revelation,” Maingi said.

The scan also showed that one of the ovaries had a testicle attached to it. In short, the baby, whose phenotypical attributes showed him as male, was actually female.

“All the blood test done showed my baby was a girl, meaning that he was intersex,” he said. 

Maingi said the news invited numerous pieces of advice from neighbours, relatives and friends, some of whom recommended religious intervention. Others advised that the child should be killed, citing a curse. 

Others also advised corrective surgeries "to help cure the baby".

Stigma and unwanted attention had become part of his life, he added.

Maingi said he had used over Sh4 million in corrective surgery endeavours that saw him declared bankrupt and his properties auctioned. 

The pursuit was complex with the local health facilities not meeting the billing. Courtesy of the First Lady's help, Maingi said he is set to travel to Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States for comprehensive corrective operation on the now eight-year-old child. 

The panic, stigma and distraught is the experience for most families living with children born intersex, with most seeking corrective surgeries. 

“Ministry of Health [should] work with other regulatory agencies towards their protection against involuntary medical intervention and ensure effective remedy. Surgical and hormonal interventions for intersex children should only be carried out in case of medical emergency based on informed consent,” the report reads.

The task force also wants the Director of Medical Services to work with the medical regulatory bodies to develop a protocol on surgical and hormonal interventions that constitute medical emergencies.  

“Unfortunately, due to this misconception that intersex children are sick physically, they are subjected to corrective surgeries to make their sex organs or hormones normal to be female or male,” the report read. 

KNCHR commissioner Jedidah Waruhiu, who is a member of the task force, said, “Stop the forced corrective surgeries. Let the intersex people be. They are normal people like you and me."

Attorney General Paul Kariuki has turned the task force into the implementation committee.

Waruhiu asserted that there is a need to create awareness against the notion that people born intersex are sick or physically disabled and hence need help. 

Other recommendations include having intersex marked as a third gender. Currently, law and registration documents only recognise two binary genders; male or female.

Taskforce chairman Mbage Ng’ang’a said intersex persons find it had to access essential services that require official identification documents such as birth certificates and IDs. 

“Most of these persons get cultured as one gender and registered as such but when they grow and develop self-consciousness, they realise they are another gender and get IDs as such,” he said. 

Most of adult intersex persons get arrested for impersonation arising from this, he added.

The task force also demanded that intersex persons be counted and documented as a distinct group in the coming census.

Edited by R.Wamochie