Members of Rainbow Identity Association (RIA) are embarking on one-on-one meetings with Members of Parliament and councilors, with the aim of unpacking their ‘Hands off our genitals’ campaign.
The campaign wants the Ministry of Health and Wellness to stop genital mutilation at birth. In an interview with The Midweek Sun, the association’s director Skipper Mogapi said they do not want government to operate intersex and transgender persons at birth but to leave children to grow so that they can make personal choices when they reach puberty.
“It should not be the choice of the hospital. And parental consent is not always right because it may not be in the best interest of the child,” said Mogapi. He said that they have been struggling to find a slot in Parliament to come and present their case.
As a result, RIA has decided to speak to individual MPs and councilors. “We are also planning to have a dialogue with councillors beginning of March. Eventually, we are hoping to have a slot in Parliament,” he said. The term intersex refers to people born with variations in physical sex characteristics – such as chromosomes, gonads, and genitals – that are considered to be either male or female at the same time, only partially male or partially female, or neither male nor female.
While some people with intersex variations also describe their sex or gender identity as non-binary, most are either male or female. RIA has over 100 members. Each one of them is unique, and their journeys are personal. Some say they are the opposite sex of what they were assigned at birth. Some feel they are both male and female. Still others do not identify as either male or female. A global report released three years ago by the Open Society Foundations, License to Be Yourself, outlines the issues policy-makers need to consider in giving transgender people legal gender recognition, and includes best practices from around the world.
The report’s authors admit that these solutions are not “one size fits all” – especially because at the time some countries, like the US, were lagging behind. Argentina is considered the leader in progressive gender marker policies, having passed a law in 2012 that allows individuals to update their gender markers on government-issued documents without any medical or mental health diagnosis.
Several countries including Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal officially recognise a third gender on official forms. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh also have an official third gender designation for citizens who do not identify as male or female. “Medical procedures may sometimes be justified in cases of conditions that pose a health risk or are considered life-threatening. Such procedures, however, are sometimes proposed on the basis of weak evidence, without discussing and considering alternative solutions,” states RIA in their policy brief against genital mutilation.
Intersex status is perceived differently across the world. In some countries intersex infants are not subjected to genital construction to conform to either male or female binaries. They are allowed to make a choice at a certain age. In other countries parental consent with medical counseling and intervention is allowed. It has increasingly become urgent that surgeries should not be performed on intersex children, unless if the surgery is to save a life, and not to ‘correct’ gender, as explained by World Health Organistion.