Kenya: Court makes steps towards recognition of intersex people

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Kenya could be on course to recognising the gender of intersex people – after an intersex child was finally issued with a birth certificate.

The child, now aged 5, was originally recorded at birth with a question mark under sex, meaning they could not receive a birth certificate. Without a birth certificate the child would not be able to attend school or receive national identity documents.

The court also ordered the Attorney General to create an organisation to conduct a census of intersex people in Kenya, and to create guidelines for support and recognition of intersex people.

John Chigiti, the lawyer for the child, told Reuters: “It’s very comforting because if we are developing guidelines, it means that we have recognised them.”

Local media had previously referred to an intersex child as having a “curse” and intersex children are forced to have surgery to prevent stigma.

Mr Chigiti hopes that Kenya will follow South Africa’s lead, where intersex children cannot have genital surgery without a court order.

He said: “The judge has to listen to the parents, listen to doctors, listen to experts, and if the child is able to [talk], listen to the child, and then come up with a decision based on the best interests of the child.”

MPs in the country recently discussed a harsh new anti-gay law, which would introduce harsh punishments for homosexuality, with life imprisonment or the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

Despite a crackdown on the gay community, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a law in March which allows Kenyan men to marry as many women as they want.