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All should respect the rights of intersex people

By Doris Kathia | Dec 25th 2021 | 2 min read

Many people are denied their right to sexual and reproductive health despite it being a human right. Each year, we celebrate International Human Rights Day; the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1948.

Human rights have the power of eliminating inequalities and exclusion and allowing people to participate in making decisions that affect their lives.

When a mother gives birth, she is very excited until she finds out the baby is born with sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the boxes of female or male. Many times the doctors do surgeries on intersex children to make their bodies fit binary ideas of male or female, a choice probably made by the parents depending on the gender they wished for.

Gender identity is emotionally attached hence, this brings up questions about whether or not it’s okay to do medical procedures on children’s bodies when it’s not needed for their health. When we talk about protection of human rights, we mean that everyone is able to live free from harm. Unfortunately, for intersex people, it is not the case.

Misinformation and directive counseling on sex normalising prevent parents from learning about options for postponing permanent surgery interventions. Parents often consent to surgery on their children in circumstances where full information is not given, or pressure is applied by service providers. The parents may also feel discomfort with their child’s bodily difference.

Measure should be put in place to address the plight of intersex persons and to ensure that their rights are upheld to end discrimination and affirm their right to protection from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by holding that intersex persons are protected under Article 27 (4) of the Constitution.

Visibility of intersex people continues to be far too low and therefore, there is an urgent need to protect their rights.

To ensure inclusion, the government should create and facilitate supportive, safe and conducive environments for intersex people and their families by enacting anti-discrimination legislation.

For many years, intersex people have remained vulnerable to discrimination.

In situations where a new-born child’s sex is unclear, gender-neutral marker in identity documents like birth registration and certificates should be considered to protect intersex people so that they can enjoy their human rights and citizenship rights.

We need to prevent medically unnecessary sex-normalising surgeries without informed consent. This can be achieved by collecting data and understanding the experiences of intersex people and also raising awareness about intersex persons.

The writer is a sexual and reproductive health rights youth advocate and a communications specialist.

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