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The Plight Of Intersex Persons In Uganda

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Lutakome Imran Kigongo

As it was in the ancient days, to-date, historical stories still count a lot and are strongly upheld by various societies throughout the globe.

Even given the level of civilization that man and the world at large has gone through and still continues to to encounter, a lot still remains un attended to in the varying perspectives of human life.

As always very adventurous as the man was created, a lot of interest has been put into harmonizing the world in a bid to make it’s inhabitants live freely without fear of discrimination.

With all the above effort, special circumstances are looked at as abnormal situations accompanied by questions like; Is it true or a fairytale? Who are they? How is it possible? Do they live a normal life as any other human being? Do they stand to have the same rights as normal persons? How have they been helped in society to realize a normal life?

These are some of the endless questions which flow in one’s mind once the word intersex persons or hermaphrodites come into play.

INTERSEX persons are those human beings without a definite sexual organ for them to qualify and exist as female or male. It is one of the very rear occurrences of life. The term intersex describes variations in sex characteristics including chromosome, gonads, sex hormone or genital that according to the United Nations office of the High Commission of Human Rights do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.

A very startling and challenging thing as it may be, it is one of the shocking realities that a percentage of the world’s population experiences and “yes”, what a reality? For every reality comes with its own challenges which ought to be addressed to a minimum satisfaction of those concerned, this one cannot be ignored either.

Everyone yearns to enjoy a peaceful life where their every needs are complied with without unnecessary delays and excuses which always come into play when addressing an issue, this still stands to be debated on by many people. Indeed as the saying goes “the world is full of surprises” and all these call for attention and therefore, this call too cannot be ignored in any way. Of the world total population approximately (0.05 – 1.7) % of it stands to confirm the existence of intersex person as per the health research by INTERSEX CAMPAIGN FOR EQUALITY (IC4E). This stands as the most thorough existing research done one the intersex persons in the world.

In the African traditional Society, they were always killed and mothers would be accused of witch craft.

Though this was the traditional norm, some societies still don’t agree that intersex persons are normal and therefore sidelined.

This reality has seen such persons exposed to rights violation inclined to mostly discrimination, stigmatization, and isolation.

Some of these inhuman violations are inflicted on them by some parents, relatives, and the community at large making them regret their existence with people finding it difficult to accept them the way they are.

For instance, intersex people leaving in northern Uganda are exposed to extremely harsh and impoverished living conditions and having to go hungry for days or weeks and extremely ration their food which exposes them to poor health, malnutrition and at worse death.

However, in civilized societies, concerned autorities have taken reasonable measures to make a great milestone in improving the life of such vulnerable groups which seem to be aligned from every policy in place to improve the livelihood of such people.

Uganda being one of the third world countries faces many challenges which all require un interrupted attention exerted in campaign to make a safe place for everyone.

With many demanding harmonious living, the question of the “INTERSEX PERSONS” still stands to be a challenging nightmare which calls for a lot of investment especially when it comes to creating equal rights for them as entailed in the 1995 Ugandan constitution.

The Ugandan Constitution recognizes the rights of citizens in chapter four and without any doubt this applies to intersex persons too though clear laws and policies need to be instituted to ensure their liberty as they stand to be a group of vulnerable people.

Lately, the campaigns to recognize intersex persons and their rights at large have been promoted by the various related organizations like Support Initiative for People with a typical sex Development (SIPD Uganda) which was founded by Julius Kaggwa who has lived and grown as an intersex person.

Anoher support organizations that came out to hype support for the intersex persons is the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the African child which commits member countries to protect all children against social, political, Economic, cultural abuse and exploitation.

Though various efforts have been and still continue to be applied to enforce the rights of the intersex persons, less has been achieved yet in this campaign and a greater challenge awaits all the concerned stake holders like the parliament which formulates laws and other entities to reach a desired reasonable goal in this concern.

According to research for example, many of their rights have been undermined and violated as below;

1. Protection of physical integrity and bodily autonomy -No

2. Protection from discrimination -No

3. Changing male or female sex classifications (only children) -Yes

The above is evidence that less action has been taken leading to negative results either due to financial, political, ignorance of such people.

With the northern region much of the lowest levels of development, low financial stand and other unpredictable hazards such as high levels of poverty among people, intersex people face a wider range of problems which include;

Discrimination; for instance research by intersex civil organizations like support initiative for people with a typical sex development of intersex youths reported that they were forced to drop out of school because of the immense stigma and discrimination associated with the non-binary development of their intersex body.

This applies to other regions for example a one Kisakye cried out on how his life has been a nightmare for being an intersex when interviewed by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

They consequently face health neglect too, also referred to as disorders of sexual development, intersex condition treatment depends upon the age at which the diagnosis is made.

With survey from 1955 to present revealing the frequency of deviation from the ideal male or female as high as 2% of live births and frequency of individuals receiving “corrective” genital surgery only runs between 1-2 per 1000 live births.

With very few surgeries done, the very few that are carried out are done when they are too young to give their consent on what they would wish to be.

This has let to many cases of difficulties in their lives especially at puberty as noted by Julius Kaggwa in an interview with The guardian in an article “I am an intersex Ugandan – life has never felt more dangerous “

Furthermore, their self-esteem is lowered making it hard for them to express their natural abilities and talents. For example, in the case of Negesa an athlete champion who was forced to have a surgery to determine her participation in the woman running competition. Since then, she gave up on athletic talent.

In case of intersex criminals, their peace is not respected by the police which arrests them. On many occasions they have been sexually violated by fellow prisoners or even police officers hence making even prisons not a safe place for them at all.

However, with the new perspective of intersex persons in existence by people today, reasonable steps have been taken. Furthermore, below are some of the recommendations to be considered to make their lives worth living.

Parliament should consider enacting policies and laws to protect intersex persons for example establishment of prison structures designed to contain intersex people.

Officers in charge of prisons should respect and ensure to separate intersex people from their non-intersex prison mates who might be a threat and bullies to them in case they discover that they have such a condition.

Separate facilities in place of convenience like toilets.

Training personnel inform of teachers, doctors to handle cases involving intersex persons.

Giving intersex persons the right to first consent before any surgeries done on them on deciding their gender.

In a nutshell therefore, with this challenge at hand, there is still much to do by the concerned entities like the parliament, prisons, the community at large within and outside the country to better the life of intersex people.

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