South Africa and the rights of intersex children

Iranti-org have released a video, discussing recommendations on the treatment of intersex children made in September by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Iranti-org state:

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has repeatedly
recognized Intersex Genital Mutilations as a “harmful practice”, and
recently issued strong binding recommendations obliging South Africa to “guarantee bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination of all children, including intersex children”, and to “adopt legal provisions to provide redress to victims of such treatment, including adequate compensation”.

We talk to Zane Dangor from the Department of Social Development and Dikeledi Sebidi on these recommendations on Intersex Awareness Day.

Dangor addressed the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, speaking on the treatment of intersex children – and taking the first step by any state to formally recognise harmful practices.

On 27 October, Carl Collison writes in the Mail&Guardian: SA joins the global fight to stop unnecessary genital surgery on intersex babies

“Intersex genital mutilation is of major concern to our department. What is even more worrying is that we only picked this up as a major concern just prior to our engagement with the [children’s rights] committee, when the fact that intersex children are being subjected to unnecessary medical procedures was highlighted to us,” he says…

Activist Joshua Sehoole, the regional human rights officer for queer media advocacy organisation Iranti-org, says at the heart of the issue are the “so-called ‘normalising’ procedures that are meant purely to make the child’s genitalia conform more aesthetically to societal and medical perceptions of what male and female genitalia should look like”…

The problem is further compounded by medical practitioners who insist on performing “corrective” procedures, often failing to provide parents of intersex children with enough information, says Sehoole.

Intersex activist Nthabiseng Mokoena’s experience was entirely different to that of Sebidi. “When I was born, the advice my mother got from the doctors was surgery. But I had a wise mother who said ‘no’.”

The Mail&Guardian also carries the story of Malume Ngwenya, abandoned at birth in Zimbabwe:

“I wish I could tell all other intersex people that they are not alone; that there are many of us out there. I also just wish more people would understand that we, as intersex people, are human beings – real human beings.”

Stop IGM

The report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was published in September. It included the following:

Harmful practices
37. The Committee is concerned at the high prevalence of harmful practices in the State party, including child and forced marriage, virginity testing, witchcraft, female genital mutilation, polygamy, violent or harmful initiation rites, and intersex genital mutilation

38. In the light of its general comment No. 18 on harmful practices (2014), adopted jointly with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee urges the State party to:

(d) Guarantee bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination of all children, including intersex children, by avoiding unnecessary medical or surgical treatment during infancy or childhood;
(e) Build capacity of all professional groups working for and with children to prevent, identify and respond to incidents of harmful practices and to eliminate customary practices and rituals which are harmful to children;
(f) Ensure sanctions on perpetrators of harmful practices, including perpetrators of the abuse of ukuthwala, and provide effective remedies to the victims of harmful practices.

Read the report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child