HUMAN RIGHTS

Intersex persons allowed to change gender identity in draft law

KNCHR commissioner Jedidah Waruhiu lauded the bill as progressive and a shot in the arm for including the intersex people

In Summary

• The bill allows intersex persons who want to change their sex through a medical procedure to be registered by the registrar of persons after six moths of the procedure.

• The amendment bill is sponsored by nominated senator Isaac Mwaura.

Isaac Mwaura. He has sponsored the amendment bill
Isaac Mwaura. He has sponsored the amendment bill
Image: COURTESY

Intersex persons who choose to undergo surgery and change their gender identity will soon be recognised if a Senate bill becomes law.

It covers intersex persons who have decided to medically transform into either male or female. The draft law seeks to amend Section 9 of the Registration of Persons Act, 2012.

If adopted, intersex persons will have to surrender their previous national identification documents, including IDs, to get new ones. This must be done within six months of the medical procedure.

 

The registrar of persons is obligated, from the bill, to register and recognise the new sex identification characteristics. The new legislation is sponsored by nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura.

"An intersex person who undertakes a medical procedure that leaves them with physical features that are either fully male or fully female shall, within six months of the completion of the medical procedure, attend before a registration officer for the purpose of changing the particulars of their sex in the register," the bill reads.

It also seeks to amend Section 2 of the Birth and Death Registrations Act to specify that the term 'sex' denotes gender characteristics for male, female and intersex.

The bill has been lauded by human rights advocates. Jedida Waruhiu, a commissioner with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, said it is a move in the right direction. 

Speaking to the Star in an interview on Wednesday, Waruhiu, herself the chairperson of the Intersex Taskforce Report Implementation Committee, said the draft law is a bold step in attempting to implement the recommendations based on the findings of the taskforce.

"The bill is engendering the fact that sex characterisation is not fixed in the normal binary codes of male and female. Further, it is also giving the intersex persons the opportunity to make informed choices regarding surgery when they want to uphold the dominant sex hormone," she said.

Waruhiu, however, cautioned that the definition of sex in the proposed law is narrow and not all-inclusive, and called for the adoption of the definition contained in their report, which was released early this year.

 

Waruhiu said there is no need for surgery, especially among intersex children who do not have the capacity to make informed choices "because there is no urgency".

"Being intersex is not being abnormal. It is just the third sex marker," she said. 

The bill comes after a huge step by the government to include the third sex marker in this year's population census. It is estimated that Kenya has more than 700,000 intersex persons.

Waruhiu urged intersex persons to come out in large numbers and be counted as the outcome will determine the policy and legal reviews that would directly affect their welfare.  

(Edited by F'Orieny)