WATCH on YouTube (6 mins). Intersex Day of Solidarity occurs every year on 8 November, and so Iranti joined with Intersex South Africa, a newly relaunched organisation advocating for the rights of intersex persons, to look at what it means to be born outside of the gender-binary.
Intersex persons may have any of a range of variations in genitals, gonads, sex-chromasomes or hormone levels. This natural variation often results in non-consensual surgery on intersex newborns, infanticide or lifelong stigma.
Representatives from ISSA thus speak out here, about their experiences and hopes for the future of intersex persons in South Africa.
ISSA Reborn: Hopeful future for
Intersex South Africa
6 September 2016, South Africa
On the weekend of 2 to 3 September, Iranti-org hosted 22 visitors from the South African intersex community, Iranti-org staff, as well as activists and allies from across the country, to brainstorm the best way forward in reviving Intersex South Africa (ISSA). Founded in 2000, ISSA became dormant after the passing of former-director, Sally Gross in 2012. Read more...
Intersex Awareness Day
Intersex Awareness Day 2016
South Africa, 26 October 2016
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".
INTERSEX AWARENESS DAY
Intersex Awareness Day
Click on the image below to enlarge or download a postcard-poster version.
INTERSEX AWARENESS DAY 2015 and ICD
Iranti-org honors Intersex Awareness Day and Building Africa's ICD Depath Strategy
THE ICD is the international classification of diseases is a document that is produced by the Word Health Organization.
The existing 10th edition of the ICD is currently being reviewed by the World Health Organization (WHO), presenting activists with an opportunity to advocate for change.
Iranti-org is committed to building a strong movement in the run-up to 2018, which is the release date of ICD 11. We are setting up subregional working groups on ICD, research and documentation. We want to make sure that African voices are heard in the revision process.
Essay~ International Intersex Awareness Day 2015
Unfit to live? Reflections on Eugenics and Intersexuality
By Joshua Sehoole
South Africa, 26 October 2015
What is Intersex?
As an umbrella term intersex describes a wide range of natural bodily variations. Intersex people are born with sex traits (including gonads, genitals and chromosomal patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male and female bodies. In some cases intersex traits are visible at birth, while in others they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all.
What is Eugenics and what does it have to do with Intersexuality?
Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aims to improve the genetic quality of the human population. In other words, it seeks to shape human evolution by selecting qualities that are progressive and regressive respectively, and acts to increase the former and decrease the latter. The danger of eugenics lies in how it decides upon selection criteria, which is vulnerable to abuse. Determinations are made by whichever group holds the political, socio-economic and medical power and privilege to do so. It has resulted in atrocities such as the Holocaust and the attempt to create an "Aryan race" in Nazi Germany. It gives rise to discrimination against and curtailment of the sexual and reproductive health rights of various marginalised groups such as the black, poor, and disabled communities.
In the decades following World War II, with the institution of human rights, many countries gradually abandoned eugenic policies. Such policies often included "positive" measures to increase populations they wanted more of by encouraging individuals deemed "fit", to reproduce. “Negative" measures aimed to curb populations they wanted less of by instituting marriage prohibitions and forced sterilisation of people deemed "unfit" for reproduction. While many think of eugenics as a morally reprehensible historical science, in modern technologies such as the selective implantation of embryos, and prenatal screening and treatment of embryos with "disorders", the practice remains alive and well. It has in fact recently included intersex variations as genetic "disorders" to screen for.
Medical discourse on what is considered disordered and healthy respectively
While broader systems of oppression discriminate against intersex people by perpetuating binary notions of sex, the role of biomedicine in this cannot be overlooked. Intersex variations are clearly pathologised in the International Classification of Diseases, commonly referred to as ICD. This is an international standard diagnostic tool maintained by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is the coordinating authority for health within the United Nations System.
As a tool designed to promote international comparability of statistics around healthcare , ICD is often presented as a neutral record of health problems, based on objective medical fact. Rarely are broader institutional systems such as patriarchy, racism, privilege, and ablism examined, albeit that they impact on this "neutrality". ICD 10 - the publication's current version - clearly pathologises bodily diversity in general and intersexuality specifically by presenting intersex variations as manifestations of physical "deformations", "abnormalities" and "malformations".
This opens the door to harmful, unnecessary medical interventions on intersex people. In the way it describes various "conditions", ICD indirectly and silently creates a perception of what is healthy and unhealthy, normal and abnormal, desirable and undesirable. This impacts on how medical practitioners, researchers and society at large understand morality in medicine. For example, while selective abortion of female embryos is seen as unethical by most medical ethicists, termination of pregnancies involving intersex foetuses is deemed ethical since intersex is regarded as disordered in and of itself.
ICD 10 is currently being revised by the WHO and the release date for ICD 11 is planned for 2018. Advocacy efforts need to be channelled to transform the narrative around intersexuality in ICD that so clearly promotes medical intervention. It needs to be broadened to reflect the lived realities of the intersex community and to combat the hegemony of a privileged few whose understanding of health and wellbeing affect the lives of many.
How do I get involved?
There could not be a more opportune time to effect change by getting involved in the revision process and pushing for better language, descriptions, and diagnostic categories with regard to intersex variations. To get involved please get in touch with:
Iranti-org, GATE, Gender Dynamix and many other organisations remain committed to increasing the involvement of African activists around the ICD revision process in the run up to 2018. Help create a world where we challenge the overemphasis on normative and unrealistic definitions of health, and create instead an approach that includes, acknowledges and celebrates natural human variation.
African Commission on Human Rights
South African Government Silent on Transgender and Intersex Rights
Gambia, 11 April 2016
Today, the South African (SA) government presented its state report to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) during the latter’s 58th Ordinary Session in Banjul, the Gambia, 6-20 April 2016. We noted with concern that the SA State report neglected to address widespread human rights challenges faced by transgender and intersex persons in South Africa. It merely contains a brief section on “Sexual orientation and gender identity”, but the focus is on sexual orientation, same-sex marriage and homophobia, and refers primarily to gays and lesbians. Read more...
IAAF ANNOUNCES A NEW WAVE OF INTERSEXPHOBIA AGAINST CASTER SEMENYA
By Nefale Lornah
23 July 2017, South Africa
800 Metre South African Gold Medalist, Mokgadi Caster Semenya, could be forced to undergo Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or surgery in order to save her career. The South African middle distance runner was the winner of the gold medal in the women’s 800 metre event at the 2016 Summer Olympics and has won numerous other 800 metre races throughout her professional career. However, she has faced immense stigmatisation in her career. Read more...
Rio Olympics 2016
Rio, 17 August 2016
Later today we will watch South Africa’s Caster Semenya compete in the Rio Olympics. She disturbs stereotypical assumptions that inform how women are classified, and like a number of women competing in the Olympics, her body has come under scrutiny.
Caster has shown a tremendous amount of strength and determination in the face of public scrutiny focused at her gender rather than her resilience, amazing performance and athletic talent. We condemn the patriarchal Western bio-medical imperialism reflected in media coverage and by the IAAF and stand with Caster as she runs for gold at 4pm SAST. Caster ke Mokgadi! #HandsOffCaster
Profile ~ Intersex activist
by Thembani Vela
South Africa, 22 October 2015
In so many ways, segregation shaped me and education liberated me. The legal battle against the discrimination of LGBTI people and HIV positive people is half won but the community battle against stigma still persists. I am an intersex person, a biological state which means I am born with sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male. Intersex is congenital difference in physical sex characteristics, the difference can manifest in chromosomes, reproductive system, and genitalia. Intersex people have always been considered taboos and mysteries in their communities, as a result they have been at the receiving end of stigma and discrimination. Read more...
I never wanted to become an activist, all I ever wanted was to reach out and support people that had similar experiences as mine, people that felt isolated and needed someone who understood what they were going through. This led me to joining NGOs that claimed to support intersex people, I don’t remember many intersex people being supported but in the end I was caught up with policy meetings, legislation consultations, movement politics and eventually we all forgot about the people we were trying to serve. I had to leave and here I am constantly dealing with the guilt of “leaving the movement”. Read more...
Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM) and other issues
Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA),
Sat 8 Nov
South Africa, 7 November 2014
SATURDAY 8 Nov, Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) to host an event at Con-Hill, Johannesburg to raise awareness about intersex issues - Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), unnecessary hormonal treatment and many others.
For more information contact:
Admin and Communications Officer
Transgender and Intersex Africa