Muasya Intersex Decision Rejecting a Third Gender in Kenyan Law Appealed

Published: June 20, 2011

A landmark court case filed by Richard Muasya, an intersex person, was decided last December by Kenyan High Court judges Hannah Okwengu, Ruth Sitati and George Dulu. Richard Muasya was awarded Sh500,000 for the inhuman and degrading treatment he experienced at Kamiti Maximum Prison but his request to have a third gender introduced into Kenya’s books of statutes was rejected. This case is being appealed by Muasya’s lawyer John Chigiti who now represents eight intersex persons.

In Kenya, lawyer John Chigiti is committed to winning legal recognition for intersex people and protecting their rights.

Chigiti’s first case was that of Richard Muasya, who was being held in a male prison where he had been sexually harassed by inmates and staff.

Muasya was awarded 500,000 Kenyan shillings ($6,000) for inhuman and degrading treatment. But the judges refused to provide alternative facilities for him.
   
Even worse, they refused to acknowledge the challenges faced by intersexuals due to their inability to get birth certificates, which require recognition of male or female gender.

The court argued that acknowledging a third sex would open the floodgates to homosexuality, which is illegal in Kenya.
    
“We are not persuaded that there is (a) definite number of intersex persons in Kenya as to form a class or body of persons in respect of whose interest the petitioner can bring a representative suit… his case must be treated as an isolated case,” the judges said.
   
Muasya’s case is on appeal, and Chigiti is determined to fight on. He is now representing eight intersex people.
John Chigiti is also representing a three-year-old child who’s parents want to perform surgery to assign the child to a recognised gender.

Traditionally, doctors have been quick to perform hush-hush “corrective” surgery.

“Some parents are even willing to sell their body organs to meet the corrective surgery costs for their intersexual children,” said Chigiti.

But this has proven extremely damaging. Many intersex adults say their lives have been scarred by the operations they underwent as babies.
   
They often feel confused about their gender identity, even if they don’t know they were born intersex. Some attempt suicide.

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