Kenya: Call for legal recognition of intersex people

July 16, 2010

Flag of the Republic of KenyaAs if to highlight that it’s not only trans women in the UK who face difficulties in obtaining recognition of differences between their lived experience and legal status, Coastweek Kenya (and others) carries a report about an intersex man, awaiting a death sentence, who is pursuing an appeal to a Constitutional Court to create a law that will accommodate intersex people.

Richard Muasya – through his lawyer John Chingiti – has urged the court to enact appropriate legislation. Mr Chingiti said the court has jurisdiction to deal with the issue raised by his client’s claim that, as an intersex man, he does not receive any legal recognition.

He submitted that the law as it is, discriminates people of his gender especially when one is applying for documents such as birth certificates, an Identity card and a passport.

“This are vital documents and the petitioner is unable to achieve them because he is an intersex,” he argued.

Chingiti argued that since his clients condition is a divine event, the court should not sit and watch as he and others who have similar status being subjected to a lot of humiliation, torture, fear and mockery from people who do it deliberately or out of ignorance.

“We should protect the petitioner and the likes of the petitioner by recognizing them legally,” he added.

I’m not entirely sure that I agree with Mr Chingiti’s belief that intersex is “a divine event“; I think OII UK sums it up well enough in its FAQ:

An intersexed person is an individual whose internal and/or external sexual morphology has characteristics not specific to just one of the official sexes, but rather a combination of what is considered “normal” for “female” or “male”.

Be that as it may, I certainly can’t argue with this:

[…] the court should not sit and watch as [Mr Muasya] and others who have similar status being subjected to a lot of humiliation, torture, fear and mockery from people who do it deliberately or out of ignorance.

“We should protect the petitioner and the likes of the petitioner by recognizing them legally,” he added.

The question of the “legalization of a third gender” is often contentious – my view is that it Others by default: I’m not convinced that “male, female and intersex” is a particularly meaningful range of categories. I would say that it’s entirely possible to be male and intersex, or female and intersex – or even simply intersex without need of any binary gender markers.

However, the fundamental issue – as is so often the case – is that an intersex person is being denied the basic human rights which others take for granted. In this case, even though Mr Muasya is reported as being “born with both male and female genital organs, but goes about as a man” – and regardless of which intersex variation that might refer to – it is a breach of his human rights for him to have been subjected to discrimination, prejudice and harassment simply because he’s intersex.

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Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:

4 Responses to “Kenya: Call for legal recognition of intersex people”

  1. Topsy.com Says:

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  3. chartreuseflamethrower Says:

    I think sex-not specified is the best option to have in terms of a “third gender”. The problem is that I’m certain it would be used to discriminate. It outs a person as being in some way not acceptable in a cissexist standpoint.

    And, of course, I’d only support it so long as people can voluntarily choose this, not if people are forced into it.

  4. Helen G Says:

    *nods*
    Good points.


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