Intersex consideration during the upcoming census will mark the first time in Kenya’s 56 year history that the decennial counting of the people will ask a question on gender beyond the traditional male and female.
The new directive introduced by The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) after discussions, and following the Registrar of Societies in Kenya recognizing the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya (ISPK) last year, has naturally brought up discussions. This has resulted in the topic of intersex trending on social media sites.
Kenyan society has for years branded intersex individuals as taboo cases or considered them to have had an abnormality or deficiency within themselves. This has led to many intersex persons hiding from the rest of the world due to negative stereotypes attached to them. At times, they even suffer discrimination from even closest family members as well as stigma and lack of support around them from different institutions.
According to PlannedParenthood.com, intersex is when someone’s sexual and reproductive anatomy doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. “Being intersex is often caused by one of many genetic or hormonal conditions, but it isn’t a medical problem.”
Intersex persons cannot be easily accounted for since in most cases they do not register their correct details due to fear of being stigmatized. In hospitals, banks, passports registrations, ID registration, medical insurance covers and many other important registrations, required answers are of male or female. In these cases, intersex persons may be forced to lie or cover up their identity to cover up gender or not expose their gender in order to be body shamed.
Stigma, Seclusion and Inability to Identify Intersex Persons
Few documented cases by the media has shown intersex persons ready to come out and be identified as part of the society. The few who have come out in the recent past have narrated of how the stigma may have to in some cases suicidal attempts or dropping out of school for the fear of being stigmatized and seclusion.
Problems that may be faced during the Kenya census include the fact that some people may not be aware they are intersex. “Some people know their child is intersex at birth. But many people don’t find out they’re intersex until they go through puberty, or even late,” PlannedParenthood says.
Another complication may come in if parents of intersex people refuse to share the information. At the same time, intersex persons may have got so used to the status quo, of not being readily identified, that they may just elect to tick the male or female box as a result of feeling better psychologically.
The 2019 Kenya Census will mark a milestone, with KNBS advising parents to voluntarily give information on intersex children as well as persons with intersex to freely come out as the process is fully confidential between the census official and themselves.
Regardless, data collected on intersex persons, as is one of the objectives of the census, will help the government to keep primary source data for the planning and detailing of individuals in the country.
This, one hopes, will help the government plan accordingly for the intersex population in the country. Knowledge of numbers will help in the consideration of planning for health, education, employment, businesses and insurance covers. The factual data that will be owned by the government will help the process become easier.