Kenya census to count intersex citizens

pKenya will for the first time collect data on intersex people in its national population census, in a major victory for rights activists.

The August survey will determine the number of citizens who do not identify as either male or female.

Intersex people often face violence and discrimination in the socially conservative country.

There are thought to be more than 700,000 intersex people in Kenya out of a general population of 49 million.

“Getting information about intersex people in the census will help people understand the challenges we go through,” Ruth Ryan Muiruri, founder of the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya (IPSK), said as she welcomed the government’s decision.

“Being included in the census is a big achievement for us,” she told the BBC.

In 2009, a woman went to court after doctors wrote a question mark instead of a gender on her child’s birth papers.

She wanted three things: identity documents for her child to be able to attend school, a law preventing surgery on intersex children unless it is medically necessary, and proper information and psychological support for parents.

In a landmark ruling in 2014, the High Court ordered the government to issue a birth certificate to the five-year-old child.

In addition, it ordered the attorney general to create a task force that would look at ways of providing better support for intersex children.

That task force handed its recommendations to the Attorney General in April. They include delaying surgery until children can choose for themselves and a robust survey on numbers.

It also recommended that an I-marker, an intersex identifier, be used in public documentation.

An umbrella term used to describe people who are born with biological variations in their sex characteristics that don’t fit typical male or female categories , there are many possible variations, involving genitalia, ovaries and testicles, chromosome patterns and hormones, the United Nations (UN) says that according to experts, between 0.05 per cent and 1.7 per cent of the population is born with intersex traits.

Ruth Ryan Muiruri, IPSK founder, speaking to BBC:  I was born an intersex but assigned a female identity, my parents didn’t accept me and went to the witchdoctor because they wanted to correct what most people saw as a curse, people would tease my mum about my identity, and I would often see her crying, I knew I was different when I was five. –BBC

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