The prospects of protection and recognition for intersex persons are looking bright as the national publication, The Kenya Gazette, publically announced the formation of a taskforce looking into intersex rights abuses in that country.

The decision has LGBTI advocacy groups from across Kenya and the world excited, with many reaching out to offer their support and assistance.

Instituted by the Attorney-General of Kenya, Githu Muigai, the “Task Force on Policy, Legal, Institutional and Administrative Reforms Regarding Intersex Persons in Kenya” is mandated to compile data on the number and distribution of intersex Kenyans as well as record the challenges they face; undertake a literature review regarding documents on the care and treatment of intersex persons; review medical and governmental policy regarding the treatment of intersex persons; recommend comprehensive reforms to protect the interests of intersex persons; clearly outline their short, medium and long term goals with regard to intersex policy changes; and undertake any other actions required to fulfill these goals.

Iranti and other advocacy groups welcome this progressive step against a global backdrop of continuing human rights violations against intersex persons. Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all. In many countries, Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM) is commonplace, where unconsenting newborns are subjected to cosmetic genital surgically to fit into the male-female binary despite there being no medical need to do so, often resulting in complications impacting directly on their sexual and reproductive health and physical and psychological well-being.  It is exciting to see Kenya acknowledge these injustices and begin working toward a solution.

The Task Force, based at the offices of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, reports directly to the Attorney-General and will carry out its work until November. We hope that the Task Force will implement interventions which will bring real change for intersex Kenyans, and that this move will encourage other countries to start looking more carefully at the human rights of intersex people. Attorney-General Guithai recently stated that it was unconstitutional to deny transgender Kenyans the right to change their names. We hope Guithai’s record of defending LGBTI rights in Kenya will continue to grow, and that the nation will continue to set an example to the rest of Africa.

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