Major changes expected after inclusion of Intersex in census

KNCHR commissioner Jedidah Waruhiu says the state will have to make numerous policy and legal changes to accommodate the intersex persons

In Summary

• Counting the intersex persons is a milestone in the continent

• Waruhiu said the policies on education, employment, registration and other areas will have to change

Part of the groups that took part in the intersex community demonstration advocating for the rights of the intersex children
Part of the groups that took part in the intersex community demonstration advocating for the rights of the intersex children
Image: FILE

A raft of policy changes is expected after the government scored a first in Africa by including the third sex mark in this year's population census.

Speaking to the Star yesterday, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights commissioner Jedidah Waruhiu said following this decision, the government will have to generate policy interventions to ensure intersex persons are not discriminated against.

The policies will also ensure they enjoy their rights just as any other person in the country.

The move follows a 2017 recommendation by a task force on intersex persons that the government formally recognise persons who do not identify their sex characteristics as either male or female. 

The task force found that intersex persons have had their rights violated as sex characterisation has always been binary in the country.

"Counting the intersex persons is a milestone in the continent, mainstreaming them in the national development planning," Waruhiu said

Waruhiu, who is also the chairperson of the coordinating committee overseeing implementation of the task force report, said while the decision is a milestone in the continent and the world, the state should prepare to accommodate intersex persons in every sphere is public life.

"With the recognition of the third gender, I personally don't know what this means regarding the constitutional provision for two-thirds gender threshold. It will definitely be affected," she said. 

For example in education, she said, the state will have to make policy changes to ensure those bearing the third gender are not disadvantaged in any way as well as fighting the stigma that has affected them.

"The state will have to redesign uniforms and school infrastructure such as washrooms to ensure a suitable environment for intersex children," she said. 

The registration regimes such as births will also have to be changed to include intersex. 

"All institutions should have in their registration instruments the third sex mark 'I', so that an employee and all people visiting them who do not fall within the usual gender binary are well accommodated," she said. 

The commissioner called for public awareness campaigns on the existence of intersex persons as a way of fighting the stigma they face.

Most communities consider intersex children as signs of bad omen or a curse. They are hence hidden, abandoned or their mothers deserted by their husbands. 

"Intersex persons are immensely prejudiced. We have to change their handling at the prisons and all other places to ensure they also accept themselves," she said.

At the same time, Waruhiu called for a ban on all corrective surgeries on children born with ambiguous or two sex genitalia "until intersex children can make informed decisions."

She wants the surgeries only to be allowed in case of a medical emergency. 

"We actually consider the surgeries intersex genital mutilations. It is not in anybody's place to determine what gender one is. Only God does that. It is mutilating them," she said.

Waruhiu said that most of the doctors involved in the corrective surgery cases do not do any other examination beyond the physical checking of the genitalia.