The intersex community in Kenya has called on the government to take immediate administrative action to recognise them.
Speaking during the launch of a nationwide awareness initiative in Nairobi on Sunday, the group’s chairperson James Karanja urged the National Assembly to enact or amend laws to facilitate their legal recognition.
“We have to accept that there is a third gender. It is intersex, these are people with ambiguous genitalia. It is therefore imperative to have laws that recognize their existence and also provide a box where intersex people can tick just like others who are either male or female,” said Mr Karanja.
He said that their rights are violated by the registrar of births through failure to issue them with a birth certificate contrary to Article 5 of the universal declaration on human rights and called for enactment of laws that guarantee non-discrimination of intersex people in all spheres of life.
“Thousands of Kenyans born with the intersex condition continue to suffer in silence, having to bear the burden of not being recognized socially or legally by the Kenyan laws. We must break this silence and culture of isolation and stigmatisation so that all of us can live as normal human beings,” he said.
Karanja, 26, was born an intersex, a complex biological form where children are born with either two sex organs or one visible organ while the other is hidden, malformed or deformed but present.
He was raised as a girl, Mary Waithera, by his parents and taken to a girl’s boarding school where he was occasionally sent away from school for allegations that he was trying to encourage lesbianism.
“After I was born, my parents separated because my father said I did not look like him and so could not give me his name according to Kikuyu culture. The family also rejected my mother because they thought I was a curse,” narrates Karanja.
It was not until Form Three when he started to experience male changes where his shoulders broadened and his voice broke.
His condition led his mother to mental breakdown and got admitted to a mental hospital, he says.
“I tried to commit suicide many times because of what I was going through. My mother could not understand why I had suddenly changed to be a man and this psychological torture drove her to breaking point and she is now admitted at Mathari hospital,” he says.
Statistics from the Child Rights International Network show that there are over 20,000 intersex people in Kenya.