South Africa: Intersex rights in rural settings

Intersex rights in rural settings

Healthcare workers, traditional healers and community representatives from across rural South Africa attended the dialogue on intersex rights, many in traditional clothing to signal the importance of African culture and tradition during the meeting. Photo: Gugu Mandla, via Iranti

Marking Intersex Awareness Day, Iranti, Intersex South Africa and the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities’ Rights Commission co-hosted a dialogue on intersex rights in rural and traditional settings.

The meeting, chaired by Obed Semono of the CRL, saw 41 stakeholders come together from a diversity of backgrounds. ANC representatives, community healthcare workers and traditional healers joined with representatives from CRL, Iranti and the newly re-launched Intersex South Africa (ISSA), to find a way forward with regard to the severe human rights violations which continue to take place against intersex persons, specifically infants and children, in rural and traditional settings…

In South Africa, a study recently revealed that 88 out of 90 midwives indicated that when an intersex child is born they commit infanticide and tell the mother that the child was stillborn. This infringes on several rights, including the right to life, right to privacy and autonomy, prohibitions against torture and other degrading treatment, and goes against the best interests of otherwise healthy children.

The dialogue itself was planned as a first step toward redress, by educating stakeholders and building a network of allies to help put a stop to the discrimination and the killings. The meeting was a melting pot of languages to actively allow exploration of traditional understandings of intersex people, and the first portion of the meeting was spent finding common language and frameworks within which to discuss the issues at hand…

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