Created: Monday, 07 May 2018
The Taskforce on Policy, Legal, Institutional and Administrative Reforms regarding Intersex Persons in Kenya was formed by the Attorney General in May 2017. The membership of the Taskforce is drawn from various institutions including Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC), Office of the Attorney General & Department of Justice, Directorate of Immigration & Registration of Persons, National Gender and Equality Commission, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the CRADLE. The Taskforce has the following mandate:
- Compile comprehensive data regarding the number, distribution and challenges of Intersex persons;
- Undertake comprehensive literature review based on a comparative approach to care, treatment and protection of Intersex persons;
- Examine the existing policy, institutional, legislative, medical and administrative structures and systems governing Intersex persons;
- Recommend comprehensive reforms to safeguard the interests of Intersex persons;
- Develop a prioritized implementation matrix clearly stating the immediate, medium and long term reforms governing the Intersex persons; and
- Undertake any other activities required for the effective discharge of its mandate.
The work of the Taskforce is thus aimed at safeguarding the interests of intersex persons by identifying the immediate, medium and long term reforms required to respect and protect their rights as Kenyans, and to undertake any other activities required for the effective discharge of its mandate. The findings and recommendations of the Taskforce are to provide clarity on issues affecting intersex persons and propose policy and legislative measures to address these issues.
Frequently Asked Questions on Intersex
What is intersex?
- ‘Intersex’ refers to a human being whose physiological characteristics cannot be classified as exclusively fitting into the binary concept of ‘male’ or ‘female’.
- Historically, intersex persons have been referred to as ‘hermaphrodites’, though this term is no longer used or accepted
Where does the ambiguity arise?
- The ambiguity may be anatomical (i.e. bodily structure, e.g. vagina, penis, breasts), hormonal (e.g. estrogen, testosterone), gonadal (i.e. reproductive organs, e.g. ovaries, testes) or chromosomal (i.e. genetic makeup, e.g. XX, XY)
Understanding the difference between sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity
What is the definition of sex?
- ‘sex’ can be defined as the classification of a species in accordance with the normative binary concept of ‘male’ and ‘female’, usually on the basis of reproductive function
What is the definition of gender?
- ‘gender’ is defined in Kenya as “the social definition of women and men among different communities and cultures, classes, ages and during different periods in history” Gender is a social construct based on beliefs or stereotypes about masculine and feminine traits (i.e. what is a ‘typical’ male or female)\
What is gender identity?
- Gender identity’ refers to a deeply felt internal (i.e. personal) experience of gender.
What is sexual orientation?
- Sexual orientation’ refers to an emotional and sexual attraction to an individual of the same (homosexual) or opposite (heterosexual) gender.
What gender identity does an intersex person have?
- Just like any other human being, an intersex person may identify as being male, female or neither gender
What sexual orientation does an intersex person have?
- Just like any other human being, an intersex person may or may not have a particular sexual orientation.
What is the estimated population of intersex persons?
- It is estimated that between 1.7 and 3.0 percent of the global population is intersex, meaning that there may be as many as 1,300,000 intersex persons in Kenya
What is the legal framework for the recognition and protection of intersex persons’ human rights in Kenya?
- Article 19(2) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 says that “the purpose of recognising and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the potential of all human beings”.
- Article 28 of the Bill of Rights states that “every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected”.
- Article 53 of the Constitution states that every child has the right to be protected from harmful practices, and that a child’s best interests are always the most important factor/consideration.
- The Constitutional court has also made clear that intersex persons have all of the same rights under the Bill of Rights as any other person, including the right to be issued a birth certificate without discrimination of any kind
What happens when an intersex baby is born?
- Often intersex newborns are assigned a sex by medical personnel or their parent(s), in terms of being treated as either male or female for the purposes of birth registration and social life.
Is there a medical treatment for intersex persons?
- In some cases, surgery is required to save the baby’s life or ensure that their body functions properly, but in most cases intersex children’s bodies function like any other human being and treatment is not necessary for health or medical reasons
- Some intersex children are subjected to ‘corrective’ surgery. This is usually done by removing the whole or part of the child’s reproductive organs, so that the child’s internal or external bodily structure is ‘corrected’ to look either male or female.
Is corrective surgery beneficial or effective?
- There is no global consensus on whether corrective surgery is beneficial or harmful to an intersex person’s physical, emotional and social development, though courts in other countries have ruled that corrective surgery is not medically necessary in most cases and therefore can wait until the child is able to make the decision for zieself There are currently no guidelines on this issue for medical practitioners in Kenya
What is Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM)?
- Like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), IGM is any procedure involving partial or total removal of the genitalia or other injury to the reproductive organs of newborn intersex babies, infants or children, for non-medical reasons
Gender Pronouns: How do I refer to an intersex person?
- What is a pronoun?
A pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (I or you) or someone or something that is being discussed (he, she, it, them, and this) A gender neutral or gender inclusive pronoun is a pronoun that does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed
While there is no single globally accepted gender-neutral pronoun, several options have been proposed. Two such options are:
- zie (he/she), zim (him/her), zir (his/her), zis (his/hers), zieself (himself/herself); or
- ve (he/she), ver (him/her), vis (his/her), vers (his/hers), verself (himself/herself)