Plight Of Intersex People In India And Around The World

Posted on January 24, 2012 in Youth and Sexuality

By Garima Lekhwani:

From the disgusted looks on the faces of their parents at the time of their birth to the discrimination faced by them at workplace in adulthood, from the humiliation and baseless injustice inflicted upon them by the society to the sex-change operations performed on them without acknowledging their sex preferences: the problems and perplexities faced by the intersex people around the globe seem to be torturously never-ending.

Photograph: mayaposch.com

Intersexuality as a term was adopted by medicine during the 20th century, and applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly male or female. It refers to those individuals who have sexual characteristics midway between normal males and normal females.

While medical science has long acknowledged the existence of millions of people whose bodies have chromosomal variations from the XX or XY of women or men respectively, our society shudders at the mere thought of recognising their existence amidst us. The rights and freedoms guaranteed to individuals as per the Human Rights Declaration and the laws of various countries protect ‘men’ and ‘women’; there is no mention of intersex people and as such there are no rights or laws to protect their interests.

The Human Rights Declaration states that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights. However, Intersex infants are hardly treated with dignity. Their rights are violated by performing cosmetic surgery on them to make others feel comfortable while mutilating them and taking away their ability to enjoy a sex life. Instead of recognizing their sex as intersex, they are treated in a very inhumane way and compelled to ‘feel’ like male or female (many a times since birth itself) which may not be the same as their sex preference.

In India, the situation is a lot worse for such people. Not only are they made to feel ‘unwanted’ by their parents (due to the narrow-minded thinking ingrained in our society) but also are forced to conceal their identity due to fear of being ostracized from the society. No laws grant protection to them and they are perpetually looked down upon by the society, in case, their true identity is revealed.

Our ‘inacceptance’ of such people was revealed once again in the year 2006 when Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan failed the gender verification test at the 2006 Asian Games leading to her being publicly ostracized and subsequently attempting suicide.

It is said that each life is a gift of God; then who gives us the right to make a mockery of His creation, be it a male, a female or an intersex?

When Nature itself does not agree with the arbitrary division of human beings into just two sexes, then who gives us the right to decide who forms a part of our society and who doesn’t?

It is high time that each one of us tries and answers these questions.

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Respect for basic human decency is the key. there are several good points the author has brought up. secrecy and stigma are bigger culprits than the medical condition itself. even for caregivers of Intersex people who are a minority within a minority. because of the secrecy and stigma they never get the support or help they desparately need because they are living through the condition of their loved one, the intersex patient.

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