Kenya takes step toward recognizing intersex people in landmark ruling

Fri Dec 5, 2014 10:42am EST
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By Katy Migiro

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Kenyan court has ordered the government to issue a birth certificate to a five-year-old child born with ambiguous genitalia, in a landmark ruling that the child's lawyer said was a first step toward recognizing intersex people.

Hospital staff put a question mark next to the box designating gender on a form to record the 2009 birth of the baby whose sex organs were not clearly female or male.

This meant the child never received a birth certificate, necessary to enjoy basic legal rights, such as attending school, getting a national identity document and voting.

"Now they are going to be able to get a birth certificate," the child's lawyer, John Chigiti, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday. "That's a win."

Intersex people often face stigma in Kenya as the condition is not understood. Local media referred to it as a "curse" for one nine-year-old child who was raised as a boy and dropped out of school because other students followed him to the toilet to see how he urinated.

The court also ordered the Attorney General to name a body that would take responsibility for conducting a census of intersex Kenyans and to develop guidelines and policies for their recognition and support.

"It's very comforting because if we are developing guidelines, it means that we have recognized them," Chigiti said.

Chigiti had less success when he represented Richard Muasya in 2010, an intersex person who was being sexually harassed in a male prison.   Continued...