Today the world marks the international day of Children and Kenya is among the countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention states that childhood is different from adulthood and lasts until 18 years. A special time where children should be allowed to play, learn, develop ,grow and flourish with dignity. The Children’s Act 2022 privides for the rights of intersex children. “The Principal Registrar shall take measures to ensure correct documentation and registration of intersex children at birth.”
An intersex person is a person conceived and born with biological characteristics that are outside of the normal binary of female or male. It is inborn because of the ambiguities. This is according to Dr. Dennis Wamalwa a commissioner with Kenya National Commission for Human Rights. Milka Wahu is lecturer at JKUAT School of law and advocates for the rights of intersex persons in Kenya. During this year’s Moot of the law students at JKUAT Karen, she noted that intersex persons are human beings like any other;whose rights MUST be respected.Parents should not try to fix anything because they are not broken.
According to a research report conducted by KNCHR indicates that “Normalisation” practices are rampant in Kenya,medical, cultural and religious. Most of the practices are on-consensual.
Francisca Kwamboka Kibagendi was born intersex in Kisii County,he underwent a sex assignment surgery to conform him to a female child. He went to a girl school where he faced stigma only for male qualities to manifest more than the female qualities. He has a wife and still struggling to change his National identity Card to indicate that he intersex.
Riziki Chipa had to drop out of school in class three because of the stigma she faced; while swimming and playing with her peers she realised she was different from others and word went round to parents of other children hence discriminated. She resorted to helping her grandmother with her small scale business of charcoal selling.
Justin ” My surgeries were conducted when I was young and my mother consented. She did not explain anything to me, and I didn’t know the purpose of the surgeries. However even with the surgeries conducted when I was17 years my consent was never sought…What pains me most is that I woke up from surgery to find my penis missing and a bandage on, I was devastated because I liked having it. I then told my mother I was done with surgeries and medications. I have never recovered from that loss.
“Certain surgeries conducted on intersex children happen without their informed consent and violate their rights we advocate a patient centered approach because it is their body and this ought to be done when they are capable of expressing their preferences says Dr. Koigi Kamau a gynecologist and endocrinologist at the Nairobi hospital.
Risper “During the birth of my child the first doctor who examined me was shocked,and he called another doctor who pretended to examine me I guess he had never seen an intersex person before. Over 7 doctors examined me to see how an intersex person looks. All this time I was still experiencing severe labour pains.
“It ain’t broken why fix it?Since I was 9 years of age I have undergone 39 major surgeries,was it necessary?We need to give chance to the intersex children because what was perceived to have been a mini clitoris that was chopped off when a child was young later on turns out to be a penis. These surgeries are irreversible give it chance until the body takes course;during adolescence the body takes it’s own direction” Dr Dennis Wamalwa Commissioner at KNCHR and an intersex expert.
Kenya is heading to the 4th cycle of the universal periodic review in 2025. The recommendations given for the third cycle include ‘ratification of the optional protocol to the convention on the Rights of the child; review all laws and policies touching on the rights of children to be in line with the optional protocol II CRC including Children’s Act,Counter Trafficking in Persons Act among others. The Children’s Act was amended in 2022.
The UPR is a periodic peer review by Human Rights Council of human rights records every 4.5 years. Each member state reports on the actions taken to improve the human rights situation in their country and they receive recommendations informed by stakeholder input and informed pre-session reports from UN Member States.
By Angela Kezengwa, AMWIK Member