It is impossible to examine the lived realities of black intersex people – whether living in Africa or in the diaspora – without drawing attention to the role and effects of western colonization. The curtain is often partially drawn to reveal just the intolerance of dictatorial regimes or “barbaric” practices when we consider the inconceivable violations suffered by many African intersex children and people, from infanticide to abandonment to crude genital mutilations that happen as standard treatment and concealment of intersex bodies.

However, for black intersex people (and for non-black intersex people too) to get a real sense of what it means to be a black intersex person and the intrinsic mental dispositions that one lives with within this reality, one must draw the curtain entirely to reveal the root of these realities of intolerance, shame, and abuse.

  • What role did colonialism play?

Western colonialism introduced a misogynist society, which transformed culture, religion, and all other “social norms” into tools to impose and justify prejudice and the need for some members of society to exert power over others, merely on the basis of appearance or perception.

This misogynist agenda gave way to the normalization of hegemonic masculinity, which validated the dominant social position of men, and the subordinate social position of women.  By so doing, ambiguous or indeterminate sex classification was buried into extinction. Very few societies, which insisted on keeping parts of their indigenous ways or worship kept intersex bodies in reverence as miraculous bodies ordained by the spirits.  For the main part, however, for hundreds of years since the western scramble for Africa, body politics have played a central role in determining how privileged or under privileged one will be.

Christian and Muslim missionaries – who controlled both inland and coastal African territories introduced the idea that God is a man, a father – and Jesus Christ too, His son who is the head of the church – or in the event of Islam, Mohammed the prophet also bearing a male sex. This scriptural qualification of male supremacy born from this assertion, meant for hundreds of years afterwards, that the male sex would be treated supremely as the head while the female sex subsequently treated as the “weaker” sex, and expected to submit to the governance of the male sex. Also, sexual relations and the founding of families began to narrow down to this theory and other western moral impositions, which – among others – sternly condemned and discouraged polygamy or polyandry. Binaries were set and cast in scriptural authority as God’s ideal standard. So, our colonialists introduced to the African context, that anything outside the binary would be deviant, sick, maimed, crooked, and in need of fixing.


  • Why was the fixing or erasure so important?

The hegemonic masculinity gospel that had been widely preached and taken root, defined what the female/woman is or is not and what a male/man is or is not.  It called on men to prove that they are not women by their ability to “control” their women while exhorted women to passively show their womanhood through the bearing and raising of children, keeping of homes, and plantations. This was important because African women were deemed stronger in resilience, mental aptitudes, and physical strength than men prior to the arrival of western colonialists. The threat of fluidity in gender and sex determination in pre-colonial Africa, as a gift of the gods had to be gotten rid of in order to eliminate the strength of African women – and also that of people who had non binary bodies and deemed deities of some sort. The bottom line was to ensure that women must never look like or act like men and their power must be subdued. The intersex body therefore paused greater threats to this agenda because it challenged this hegemony, and it had to be erased.

  • The aftermath: Post-colonial realities of black intersex lives

It’s been decades since western colonialists officially left Africa but the realities of black intersex people have not changed much. A neo-colonial form of propaganda and indoctrination continues to plague Africa through a cultural cocktail of

  • Religion
  • Education
  • Modernization
  • Legislation
  • Popular culture
  • Geopolitics
  • Medicine and economics

While the truth is often more liberating than fiction, to be politically correct in today’s world seems a more lucrative option for many intersex people in Africa or of African descent and so many will hide their intersex experiences, because they don’t want to be associated with “strangeness”. Furthermore, the fear of being thrown to the scrutiny table of ridicule and possibly forced into traumatic corrective surgeries against one’s will is mortifying. These realities follow an intersex baby from the time of their birth way into adulthood – if they are fortunate enough to survive. All the above factors above contribute to several facets of violations, hardships, and self-denigration for many black intersex people, regardless of where they live.


Examples of these lived realities:

  • Social, cultural and economic realities

In many African societies, there are stories of how people have witnessed intersex babies being killed by parents and mid wives a few hours or days after birth, or taken to traditional shrines for exorcism rites, which often involve slipshod and lethal genital mutilations. In one Ugandan case, for example, an intersex teenager Richard (not real name) was discriminated by both the society and his parents. He was denied a right to education as his parents considered it a waste of money to send him to school. And at the age of fifteen, he was forced to leave his parents’ home because he was at a danger of being killed any time. In other communities, mothers of intersex babies are abandoned by their husbands and blamed for the birth of intersex children.

In Kenya, for example, the parents would rather throw the child out than endure marital separation. In the words of a Kenyan intersex person, he says, “In my country, they would rather throw out the baby than end their marriage.” At a very young age, he was forced out on the street with no survival skill whatsoever and as a result, he turned to alcohol and substance abuse to cope with the situation.

Society has constantly accused him of being a homosexual since he exhibits both masculine and feminine traits, and has constantly been harassed and beaten by people who have homophobic and insular religious mind sets, which have become synonymous to African culture through religious dogma.

  • Sexual identity, reproductive health and rights

Medicine – whether traditional or modern – has had so profound an effect on African culture and social processes that to date, it is seen as the single one solution to the intersex body.

In several countries all across Africa, many intersex young people, caught between fearing the outcomes of medical processes and lacking resources to access them, have felt safer to identify with the LGBT community than the intersex community. This has created a double margin for intersex people because even in these assumed safe spaces, their imprecise bodies need defending.

Since there is hardly any specialized institution dedicated to “fix” intersex bodies in most of black Africa, many find shelter in the services of traditional medicine and spiritual solace. While the end result is to try and “fix” the situation or “tame” the body into the acceptable binary, these traditional and spiritual interventions, it can be argued, may for the adult intersex person be a more palatable alternative to the non- consensual “normalizing” surgical options offered by western medicine.

For the few black African intersex people who see western medicine and sex re-assignment surgery as a solution, accessing it becomes an unattainable goal, which intensifies the feeling of isolation and helplessness – often leading to suicidal tendencies. Claire (not real name) a thirty year old black intersex person who discovered her condition in her early teenage years has failed to raise the kind of money needed to undergo the desirable surgery. In so desperately seeking this surgery, she reiterates the need to conform:  “I also want to be like other girls so that can get married and have a family, but who can marry me with all this ambiguity?”

  • The pop culture yardstick

Most of black Africa is being steered by a pop culture index that defines “normal” and “ideal” as far as bodies and sexuality goes. This index sends a very strong signal of what masculinity and femininity looks like, albeit through a western lens. It displays the western world and its way of life as the ultimate utopia.  As a result, most black intersex people have lost hope of ever finding a place to call home as the gap between the bodies they live in and the ideal bodies they wish they had widens.  Some have had to sacrifice a leg and an arm to reach the relentlessly marketed western utopia, only to face a new set of racial trepidations to battle with.

Another example drawn from the role of pop culture and sport is the outrageous controversy that arises from outstanding achievement at the world games by women who are viewed to be too masculine to be women. Black African women exhibiting intersex traits in sport have been forced to undergo humiliating invasive “gender verification” tests.  Even more disturbing is the implied gendering and black-white racialization of performance in sports, particularly depicting women, and black women in particular, as having less sports competence. The suggested exclusion of intersex and gender non-conforming individuals in mainstream sports participation is also a disturbing reality for black intersex people. All of these invasive, humiliating verification processes that black intersex people are forced to undergo, whether in hospital, on the sports ground, in accessing identity documentation, in asylum protection procedures are neo-colonial extensions of sadism and a major human rights violation against all black people with intersex bodies.

On a brighter side, there has been a growth of awareness done on intersex bodies over the past ten years in the black community – particularly in Africa, from Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, to the west African coast – and it’s encouraging to see that intersex human rights are taking center stage in global human rights conversations, including at the United Nations. It is time to make the world realize – regardless of cultural inclination – that not everyone was designed to or will fit into the stereotypical sex classification binary.










List Of Acronyms Iv
Executive Summary 1
Understanding Our Journey: Background of the Baseline Survey 1
Goal of the Baseline Survey 1
Objectives of the Baseline Survey 1
Thematic Areas 2
Scope of the Baseline Survey 2
Objectives of The Survey 3
Methodology And Processes 4
Challenges to the Process 6
Defining Intersex: What Then Does It Mean To Be Intersex? 8
Impact Forecast of the Baseline 10
Key Findings and Analysis 10
Legal and Human Rights Realities 10
Cultural, Moral, Social and Religious Discourses 14
Intersex Organizing 24
International  Advocacy Tools Specific to the Rights of Intersex People 27
Conclusion and Recommendations 29
About SIPD – Uganda 32
References 34







SIPD –Support Initiative for people with congenital  disorders


DSDs – Differences  of Sex Development


HRAPF – Human Rights Awareness and Promotion  Forum


TBAs – Traditional Birth Attendants






Understanding our journey: Background  of the  baseline survey

Support  Initiative for People  with Congenital  Disorders  (SIPD –Uganda), its clients, allies, and  donors  have  had  discussions   around   the  possibility  of  conducting a Baseline Survey on intersex realities in Uganda and the East African region for a long time and it is our hope  that  this initial baseline  survey focusing  mainly on Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda lived realities,  will translate into other  baseline  surveys across sub- Saharan Africa.



Goal of the  baseline survey

The purpose of the  baseline  survey is to  “identify essential  indicators  to  capture in describing  the  current context of the  lives of intersex  people  and  the  state of organizing of intersex  communities in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda.

ˠ      Monitor gains and losses and how they relate  to changes in context or to actions  taken by actors  for and against  intersex  rights;

ˠ      Analyze strengths and weaknesses over time, as the basis for strengthening organizational capacities and  strategies for  individual organizations and  a cohort  of groups  with similar goals;

ˠ      Assess and  begin  to  minimize divergences between services  provided  and those  that  are needed by Intersex communities; and

ˠ      Build from  the  knowledge  that  if the  technical  assistance can  be provided regionally,  processes  will be  more   horizontal   and  less  hierarchical   and activism as well as engagement will be more visible.



Objectives of the  baseline survey

ˠ      To identify essential  indicators  against which to describe  the current context of the  lives of Intersex  people  and  efforts  to  organize  Intersex  people  in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda;

ˠ To gather  information  in relation to each of these indicators  and;

ˠ      To establish  a framework  for ongoing  gathering of Baseline Information  for the region.


SIPD  Uganda  is the  leading  team  in this  baseline  survey.  To achieve  the  above objectives,  the  team  used  both  qualitative  and  quantitative data  collection  and analysis methods.


Thematic  areas

ˠ Legal and policy perceptions

ˠ Landscape  of Intersex organizing

ˠ Lived realities

ˠ Cultural, social and religious discourses

ˠ Health discourse

ˠ Sex determination, gender  identity and sexual orientation discourses


Scope  of the  baseline survey

The survey looked  generally  at  Uganda,  Rwanda, and  Kenya where  SIPD operates and/or  has  alliances. The findings of this study  were  then  juxtaposed with a few other  Sub Saharan  African countries, such  as  Zimbabwe,  and  Zambia as  well as other  international narratives.

Much  of  the  literature  on  intersex   children/people  provided  a  perspective on gender  and sex vis-à-vis intersexuality. These perspective show the socio-economic correlations, which further  promote discrimination, torture, and even the threat of facing death  for most intersex  children and people in the region.

The baseline  survey started in Kampala district where initial meetings with intersex people,  their  parents/guardians were  held and later  data  collection  was extended to 50 districts  of Uganda where  SIPD works as well as to 2 intersex  people  and 2 partners in Kenya and 1 partner in Rwanda. We hope that every three  years a review will be done to update this baseline.




General objective

To contribute to  broadening and  deepening of  understanding of  the  scale  and implication  of violence,  abuse,  neglect,  exploitation  and  discrimination  affecting intersex  children,  their  special  need  of  protection measures by amplifying their situation  and the  factors  that  contribute to their  situation  as a basis for planning programmatic interventions.

ˠ      To explore  the  social economic challenges  faced  by their  intersex  children and their parents

ˠ      To find  out  the  existing  legal  framework   backing  the  rights  of  intersex children and people.

ˠ      To show  the  relevance   of  social  protection  concerning the  situation   of children born with Differences  of Sex Development.

ˠ      To identify essential  indicators against which to describe  the current context of the  lives of Intersex  people  and  efforts  to  organize  Intersex  people  in Uganda;

ˠ To gather  information  in relation to each of these indicators  and;

ˠ To establish  a framework  for ongoing gathering of Baseline Information.



To achieve the  mentioned objectives, SIPD used  the  following combination of methodologies:

Data Collection: This included primary and secondary  data collection through  desk reviews, personal  interviews, and consultations, with a focus on understanding the views, attitudes and  opinions  of  intersex  people  in Uganda,  Kenya,  and  Rwanda and other  stakeholders including but not  limited to medical practitioners (Doctors and Traditional Birth Attendants), legal experts,  counselors, psychologists,  religious leaders, local leaders, educators among others.  The intersex baseline survey started with a meeting in Kampala that  brought  together a total of 35 intersex  people  and their  parents. This was followed by verification  meetings in Kampala and Kigali to receive feedback  from participants. Resources and sources of information,  partners useful in the provision of information  on focus areas, indicators that may have been left out were all discussed in these meetings.


The Data collection processes included:

ˠ      Focused  group  discussions  – Sometimes discussions  were  held  in groups since all of them  had the same  goal

ˠ      Review of literature – Literature  was reviewed  for a clear correlation  to be established

ˠ      Home visits – Home visits were made to different intersex families in Uganda in order  to  have  a clear  picture  that  depicts  an intersex  ways of living in Uganda.

ˠ      Telephone  calls – Telephone  calls were  carried  out  in seeking  for clarity on different matters that  were  reported since  some  could  have  information gaps

Area of study: 30 districts  of Uganda  i.e. 120  participants across  North, Western, Eastern and the Central regions respectively. As well as Kenya and Rwanda – i.e. two (2) intersex  people and three  (3) partners.

Data Analysis: The researcher(s) make analysis basing on lived realities of intersex people  themselves (using a semi structured research interview), existing literature books on intersexuality,  and interviews with medical practitioners, counselors, legal experts,  local leaders, religious leaders  among  others.


Validation  workshop

All participants attended a validation workshop  in Kampala where  the  report  was presented and discussed as well as planning for next  steps  for the  draft  baseline report  presented and  future  actions  for follow up by key partners, organizations and activists.


Final baseline report

There  was  integration of  feedback   from  all meetings and  this  sustained in the production of the final baseline report  that includes photos  and videos that capture the findings.


Report dissemination

Communication of findings is planned  through  dissemination of the  final baseline report  to partners, activists, hospitals, schools organizations and all other  relevant stakeholders.


Scope  of follow up

It is envisioned  that  there  will be follow up and review of key indicators  every after three  years.



Information gaps  – This was a challenge  because respondents were  sometimes unable  to give all the  information  that  the  interviewer  wanted  since they had not yet come out.

Impact projection – Ensuring that the process  and this report  will reach the hands of those  able to use it to benefit  the intersex community in Uganda and the region.

Sustainability The challenge  of raising funds to ensure  that  there  are follow up studies  every after  three  years.



In all three   countries in this  survey,  namely,  Uganda,  Rwanda  and  Kenya  when an intersex  child is born, the  family treats the  birth with extreme secrecy  – with intervention strategies  limited  to  close  family  members.  In all  the   responses we  received,  families  will isolate  the  child from  the  general  public. As standard treatment, the  mother of such  a child will be  frowned  upon,  and  most  intersex infants  will be  killed shortly  after  birth.  Those  who  are  not  killed face  different forms  of discrimination  – for example, in Uganda intersex  teenagers are forced  to drop out of school and live a disempowered and secret life, often  subjecting  them to sexual violence in terms  of curiosity rape and other  forms of sexual and physical harassment. In Kenya, the  family will send  the  intersex  teenager away from home and from the village to find anywhere  else to live and caution them never to return. In Rwanda, a few intersex  young people  have sought  refuge  in Nyamirambo camp for LGBTI  destitute people  but  have  been  forced  to  leave  for lack of safety  and relevant  services. Some have resorted to suicide. Usually superstition loom large as families consult witchdoctors, mediums  and traditional healers for a solution.  What would appear  to be a positive story is for a scanty number  of intersex  people  born into wealthy families, who avail them  with medical information  and where  needed sex re-assignment surgeries.  Even in these cases,  the  doctors  were  quick to note that  no one  is sure  if the  surgeries  done  are  the  right ones  or if they  will prove useful to the intersex  child later on in their life.

Women who give birth to intersex  children are often  considered to be witches  or victims of witchcraft,  and the  intersex  children are considered a bad omen  to the family, which should  be  gotten rid of. The ridding takes  the  form  of murders  or abandonment. Many women  are abandoned by their  husbands and in-laws due to the  news  of such  a birth. Most mothers of intersex  children  dump  and  abandon their intersex  children for dead  in pit latrines and lonely forest  areas  and run from their  homes  for fear  of possible  prejudice-driven crimes  towards  them  by family or community  members. It’s so unfortunate that  the  general  East African society has always responded with denial, hostility and at best,  silence,  on these matters pertaining  to sexual development and related  health  and rights concerns.

In recent years, children’s rights have developed  into a major field of human  rights, with children being recognized as critical priorities  for legal focus, including those born with Differences  of Sex Development.  UNICEF has recognized the importance of children’s rights thus  the  Convention on the  rights of the  child. An official from UNICEF during a national seminar  on United Nations Convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC) said “as important as needs of human rights, even more important is the need to recognize  and protect the special rights of children, who are most vulnerable members of society. “

The critical question at the  helm of this survey, which is echoed in most  national findings is when will the various legal and human  rights frameworks,  which protect children’s rights  and  other  at  risk populations at  international, regional  and  local levels  also  specifically  include  Intersex  children  and  people   (those   born   with Differences  of Sex Development).

The birth of a new baby is one  of the  greatest wonders  of nature  and one  of the most  exciting events  known to man. The first question that  is usually posed  by the mother or father  is “is it a boy or a girl”, without  this information  the  new parents cannot  even  formulate the  second  question which is usually “is he/she alright?”. Magnus Danielson (2005, 3) alludes to this initial social construction of gender  and says plenty has been written about how boys and girls are treated differently, about how something as common  place as the tone  of the voice towards  a person  differs depending on what sex that person  is. This may seem  ridiculous changing my voice just because I am talking to a person  with a penis, may be not but how are children who can’t  be  defined  as  neither  boys nor  girls be  treated? What really happens when the midwife holds up the newly born baby and says, “congrats,  it’s a……eh…. well….”. Sadly the reality is too traumatic to joke about  and yet it is a true scenario for thousands of parents whose  children are  born  this way the  world over – East Africa inclusive.



Intersex can be looked at as a condition in which a person is born with a reproductive or  sexual  anatomy  that  doesn’t  seem  to  fit the  typical definitions  of  female  or male or a person  born with genitals  that  lie between male and female.  It therefore reflects  a combination of differences in the  development of a person’s  internal and  external  sexual and  reproductive organs.  For example  a typical male  is born with two complete testes and a penis that enables  penetration during conventional sexual  intercourse; passage of seminal  fluids and  urine.  A typical female  is born with two complete ovaries, a uterus,  fallopian tubes,  mammary  glands that develop into breasts at puberty and a vagina that enables  both menstruation and child birth. Being intersex is occupying the middle grounds  between the typical male or female sexes.

Medically referred to as Disorders of Sex Development,”  Intersex” is a general  term for being physically or physiologically “between male and female”. Intersex people are born with a sex differentiation which makes the anatomy of their bodies atypical and their sex classification indeterminate.   For many, it’s at the chromosomal level, others  at the hormonal  level and for the most obvious ones  it’s at the genital level.

According to law students for reproductive justice in their  article “ Intersex rights and  reproductive justice” (2013  , 1) they  defined  the  term  intersex  as to  people born with sexual or reproductive anatomy  that  does  not fit within society’s typical definitions  of male or female  and the  intersex  society  of North Africa (www.isna. org) extends more  on this  definition  and  says being  an  intersex  encompasses a variety of conditions,  a person  can be intersex  in many ways and  not  all medical professionals agree  on what constitutes an intersex condition, but people generally labeled as intersex  include those  who have;

ˠ Internal and external  reproductive organs  of different sexes

ˠ      Internal reproductive organs  that  represent a combination of typically male and female organs  (i.e. ovotestes)

ˠ      Genitals that  do not appear  typically male or female (e.g. a large clitoris and shallow or absent vagina, or a micro penis with an opening  in the  scrotum that  looks like a vagina and

ˠ      Atypical chromosomal patterns, (such as XXY, XO or mosaic  chromosomes) or a certain  hormonal  abnormalities such as Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia or Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.


Rainbow Health Ontario define  intersex  in their  RHO fact  sheet on intersex  health as  people  whose  bodies,  reproductive systems,  chromosomes and/or  hormones are  not  easily characterized as male or female.  This might  include a woman  with XY chromosomes or a man with ovaries  instead  of testes. Intersex characteristics occur  in one  out  of every 1500  births  (Handbook for parents, 2006).  That means an intersex  child is born every two days in Canada, five intersex  children each  day in the US and according  to our reference doctors  from Mulago hospital in Kampala, Dr. Laigong in Kenya, and Health Development  Initiative (HDI) in Rwanda at least  2 children with intersex  conditions  are born every week. Estimates  of the  frequency of intersex  status range  widely, in part due to the cultural practice  of concealment that  ensures some  individuals never know they were born intersex (Anne 2006, 59, 65) and in part to disagreements over the definition of what counts  as an intersex configuration. Conservative  figures  place  the  frequency  at  1  in every  2000  live births ( while expanded definitions yield the estimate that  about  one in every 100 births is intersex  (

Dr. Thomas  Muyunga,  a  sexual  and  health   rights  advocate  (, further   supports this  definition  and  explains  that  biologically, females  have  XX chromosomes and  males  have  XY  chromosomes, because in humans,  the  male gametes (sperms) contain  X and Y while the female gametes (ova) contain  X and X. So when the  X from the  sperm  fuses  with the  X from the  ova, the  baby is XX and female. When the sperm releases Y chromosomes to fuse with the X chromosomes from  the  ova,  the  baby  is XY  and  male.    Yet, Muyunga says,  some  people  may have  an extra  X or Y chromosome, sometimes the  extra  chromosome is hooked on the  ordinary  XY  or XX  chromosomes. Sometimes,  intersex  people  have  fewer chromosomes. They go on to say that  within medical circles, the term  “disorder of sex development” has replaced  earlier terms  such  as sex reversal,  hermaphrodite or pseudo  hermaphrodite. (Clinic Guidelines for the management of Disorders of sex Development in childhood. 2006).

Intersex   activist   groups   strongly   disagree   about   the   appropriateness  of  this pathological  terminology  (Koyama 2008)  because people  living with this range  of conditions  generally refer to themselves as “intersex”.



The baseline  will inform all relevant  stakeholders who design  or contribute to the designing of human  rights protection and/or promotion policies – i.e. government, and  non-government institutions,   other   policy makers  and  legislators,  activists, development partners, parents, healthcare and legal practitioners to consider  the vulnerability and human  rights implications faced  by intersex  people.

The survey is expected to amplify the  outstanding duty to recognize and protect the  human  rights and dignity of intersex  children and people  as part of the  global commitment to respect for diversity.

This survey should pave way for future  research and interventions in the  areas  of gender,  sex, law, and organizing in the East African region and broader  Sub Saharan Africa.




Legal and Human Rights Realities

Specific legal  references to intersexuality

The  law in Uganda,  Kenya, and  Rwanda  is explicit and  similar in regard  to  sex classification. Either one is born male with a penis – and constructed to live as a boy or female with a vagina and constructed to live as a girl. Since the law doesn’t allow any variations, which nature  abundantly allows nonetheless, a child that is born with atypical sex characteristics, i.e. conditions  where  the child’s genitals, chromosomal or gonadal  characteristics are not  entirely female  or male (Preves, 2003),  parents and/or doctors  will make a decision on behalf of the child to assign a sex out of the two sex classifications.

This is not  just due  to  the  law, which of course  is unconditional,  but  also to  the parents who want a normal child. Nonetheless, the  literature reviewed  proves  that genes,  hormones and  genitals  do not  necessarily  stick together (Dahlen 2006).  A child with a penis can for instance  have the XX chromosomes, (i.e. the female ones), and a child with a clitoris and/or  a vagina can have the  XY chromosomes (i.e. the male ones). This can also be the  case  if the  child has ambiguous genitalia  where something ambiguous is always compared to something medially and/or socially to be “normal”. Technically speaking, the intersex  condition  signifies a variation in the reproductive and sexual system.  And the  real ambiguity  lies in how the  observers face the situation.

The simplified handbook  on international and  national  laws, laws and  policies on children (UNICEF and FIDA – Uganda) informs us that  even  at the  regional level we have the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the African child and Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda are signatory. This charter commits  the country  to protect ALL children – intersex  children inclusive – against  various forms  of social, economic, cultural and political abuse  and exploitation.  As state parties,  Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda are  obliged  to  undertake the  necessary steps  and  adopt  legislative  and other  measures to  give effect  to  the  provisions  of this  charter which spells out basic human  rights that  all children have.

Every  child has  the  right  to:  live, survival and  development; name,  registration, education, leisure  , recreation and  cultural  activities,  health  and  health  services, special judicial treatment in a manner  consistent with the  child’s sense  of dignity and worth, parental  care etc. the right to life, survival and development (Article 5). The right to be cared for, protected by his or her family and to reside with his or her parents (Article 19).

Protection against  child abuse  and  all forms  of torture, inhumane and  degrading treatment, including physical or mental  injury or abuse,  neglect  and sexual abuse (Article 16). That said, it is established that  Intersex Genital Mutilation of intersex infants and forced mutilations of intersex adults are a form of torture and constitute a human  rights violation.





The case of Uganda:


Law Provision Impact on intersex persons
The 1995

Constitution of the Republic of Uganda

Article 20: fundamental rights and freedoms are inherent and not granted by the state Should include intersex  persons rights and freedoms
Article 21: The right to equality and freedom from discrimination Intersex people have a right to equality and freedom from discrimination
Article 27: The right to privacy Intersex people have a right to privacy
Article 30: Right to education Intersex children have a right to education just like any other  child
Article 32: Affirmative action in favour of the marginalized groups Intersex people are among  the most marginalized groups in Uganda

of Persons  Act


Change of name  of an adult

(Section 36)

Intersex persons should have the

right to change  their names.  However, cross-sex  names  can be problematic both socially and legally even with this constitutional right.

Registration of a child born a “hermaphrodite” (Section 38) and change  of sex of such a child. Intersex children can be registered and their sex changed at the recommendation of a medical practitioner.
Registration as either  male or female Note: What of those  that  can’t really

fit into the female or male boxes? And are no longer children? This makes them  stateless.


The case of Kenya:

According to John Chigiti of Gender Minority Trust, in 2014, a Kenyan court ordered the Kenyan government to issue a birth certificate to a five-year-old child born with ambiguous genitalia. In Kenya a birth certificate is necessary for attending school, getting  a national  identity  document, and  voting.  In the  case  of Baby “A” (Baby “A” Vs the  Attorney General (AG) and others  Petition number  266 of 2014) Justice Lenaola brought  out the need to have a list of the Statutes that regulate the affairs of the  intersex  community.  He further  directed  the  AG to identify the  state organ that  is responsible for data  collection  around  the  issues  of the  intersex.  We can comfortably  now say that  Kenya is ready for the intersex.

The Persons  Deprived  of  Liberty Act 2014  is a first  in Kenya to  define  who  an intersex person is. Section 2 of the Act defines an intersex as a person certified by a competent medical practitioner to have both male and female reproductive organs. Although this is an extremely  shallow definition, it is fair to say that  for Kenya, this is a first step  in the right direction.

Going by legal documents, children  in all the  three  East African countries under this  survey  generally  have  rights  and  freedoms entitlement under  the  terms  of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948); International  Covenant on Civil and  Political rights  (ICCPR  1966);  International  Covenant  on Economic  Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and significantly the  Convention  on the  Rights of the child (CRC 1989). Uganda has gone ahead  and domesticated these Conventions into the 1995  constitution and other  related  legal reforms,  chapter four of the Uganda constitution article 34 provides for the rights of children, also the children act was enacted to  reform  and  consolidate the  law relating  to  children.  While Uganda’s policy framework  shows  a strong  commitment towards  providing care, protection and  maintenance of children,  it forgets and  excludes  intersex  children,  it caters for only two  categories of children  male  and  female  and  provides  no protection whatsoever for intersex  children from fear  of assault,  abuse,  inequality, exclusion and discrimination in the societies where they reside. SIPD works with 1402 intersex children  and  people  in 50  districts  of Uganda  since  2008,  and  due  to  continued advocacy,  the  Uganda parliament  in 2015  included some  basic recognition clause of the  right  to  citizenship  of intersex  children  and  people  in the  registration of persons Act of 2015. That said, the language  used – of “hermaphrodites” instead  of “intersex” in this recognition clause remains  stigmatizing  and de-humanizing.

In Rwanda, HDI reported that  negligible attempts have  been  made  to  categorize intersex  children among  children with disabilities. HDI kept no specific numbers of intersex  people  they had interacted with reported that  they had come  in contact with at least  twelve (12) intersex  adults who had sought  refuge  in the  LGBT camp but had to flee due to discrimination  and lack of support.

In Kenya, the law does not explicitly recognize the existence of intersex  children or people. However, the Kenyan law courts made a positive ruling in favor of “Baby A”’s right to citizenship  through  the issuance  of a birth certificate in a ground  breaking litigation suit by Gender Minority Trust (GMAT) in 2014.  This has initiated  a process of acknowledgement of the existence of intersex people in Kenya and hopefully will lead to more  organized  support.  Apart from this legal milestone of baby “A”, SIPD was able to  speak  to  six (6) intersex  adults,  only two  (2) of whom  were  keen  on initiating some  rights organizing. The other  four (4) just wanted  to live a quiet and safe life.



The baseline looked at how the  social, religious, and cultural fundamentalisms facilitate the  discrimination of the  intersex people in the different societies of East Africa.

People in the  different communities in all the  three  countries Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda  the  researcher interacted with  have  a  view that  you  are  either  born  a male or a female,  and for the case  of intersexuality  some  view it as myth, others  a punishment leaving the  child born with this condition  to suffer  in life even  to the threat of being killed.

In Uganda if an intersex child is born in urban and rural areas of Uganda, it is considered to  be  a punishment for an offence  the  mother committed either  in the  present life or an earlier life. The child and the  mother are  expelled from the  community, which is essential  for survival. Therefore,  many  mothers kill their  newborn  baby, hoping  that  the  child’s intersex  remains  undetected at the  funeral  at the  funeral, since  other  members of  the  community  rarely touch  the  dead  body  during  the funeral. And they continue to note  that  in Uganda we have failed to acknowledge that culture is not static it’s dynamic. This leading to sections of the communities all over the country to reproof  intersex children as a population  haunted by witch craft and as result  basic care needs  and health  become a problems  to these children in case they survive death.


Discourse on the  right to housing

Among the  rights of the  child, there  is a right to housing,  or shelter.  In Kenya, the intersex  child will usually be  forced  out  with the  mother but  in many cases,  the child is isolated  and hidden in the house  but when they reach  early teens,  they will be  forced  out  of the  house  and  homestead to  go and  fend  for themselves, and warned  never  to return.  One of the  intersex  young adults  we interviewed  had this experience, was chased  from home  and has not returned since.

In Uganda, the scenario is not that different from Kenya. Intersex children are denied this right to adequate standard of housing. In Northern Uganda for example, intersex children are denied housing. They are separated from their siblings and put in remote huts on the peripheral of the homestead, further  than where animals are kept. They argue  that  if this child is left to stay with siblings it’s very easy for this child to pass on the bad luck to other  children in the family that  are considered “normal”. There is another case in Rakai district where a child was moved from the main house  and isolated  in a small hut at the  advice of the  family’s in-laws. This was a measure to control the continuity of what is considered a bad omen  in the family.

The mother was quoted saying (translated from Luganda) “I was ordered to take my child from the main house and abandon  it in the outside hut because it was a “curse” and they didn’t want the “curse” to spread to other children and people in the main house… they also told me I was the cause of the evil happenings  in their family”


Photos1 &  2: Picture  of  a child  who  was  isolated from  the  main  house and  photo 2 shows  a typical homestead in Northern Uganda.








A typical homestead will have a main house and other sub houses. When an intersex child is born,  they  are  removed  from  the  main  house  and  put  into  a small hut distanced from  the  main  homestead to  stop  the  bad  omen  affecting  the  entire family.

Discourse on the  right to education

Every child is entitled to the right to education, but schools lack support  and respect of a student’s unambiguous sex or who lack a proper  sex determination/gender identity  as  per  societal  norms.  SIPD  engaged 12  schools  in Uganda,  1 school  in Western Kenya, and consulted about school perceptions from HDI Rwanda and found out the following: Schools lack toilets, showers and change  rooms which are specific to intersex  children and youth. Coupled with the  lack of appropriate facilities, they also  face  acute  discrimination  from  their  fellow students and  teachers,  making them  extremely  vulnerable. It has been  very difficult for some  intersex  children to choose toilets where  to go as they don’t seem  to fit to either  the boys side or the girls side i.e. it will be impossible for a boy who can’t pass urine while standing  to go to the girls toilet because girls will feel offended since they perceive him to be a boy yet fellow boys will not understand why he must  squat  to pass urine if he uses  the boys’ toilet. Whichever toilet he chooses to use, he must  be in hiding.  A situation like this is one of the several stories  collected  as causes  for dropping out of school.

The baseline found out that in Uganda and other  East African countries, 90% of the intersex  youth  interviewed  reported that  they  were  forced  to drop  out  of school because of the immense  stigma and discrimination  associated with the non-binary development of their  intersex  body. An intersex  teenager in Uganda  was quoted saying Mukama bwakuyamba nomalako  okusoma  nga wazalibwa  mweno embeera nga eyange obeera wa mukisa nnyo era Mukama osaana okukimwebaliza”. Meaning that in Uganda if you are in position to conclude  school and you were born intersex, you are very lucky and you need  to thank God.


The role and impact  of religion

Culture,  religion  and  morality  are  used  by sections of  communities to  reproof intersex  people  as a population  haunted by witchcraft,  and whose  redemption lies in the same.   As a result access  to education, health care, legal services and justice becomes a  challenge.  In all the  three   East  African  countries surveyed,  religion encouraged various divine interventions and rituals, as well as overarching silence as a solution.

Socio – economic Challenges

Concerning  the  socio – economic challenges,  Gloria from  Kampala district  narrates that  she  lives with untold  pain. Where  she  said a black cloud hang  over  her  life when  she  discovered  she  was  intersex.  She said “I lost both parents  when I was two years old I was in taken up by my grandmother  who lives in Bunyaruguru. When I was in P5, I discovered that urine passed  out of a small hole on top of my genitals. However, I found out that I had no virginal opening,“ she says, “I wondered  what had gone wrong with me and why grandmother  and aunties  had not told me about my condition. I became desperate.  I wished my parents were alive to explain it to me. One day, one of my aunties told me that I was born with that condition and that my late knew about it, but had nothing to do,” Gloria says. She further  narrates that  her parents thought she had been bewitched by her stepmother. But when the doctors examined  her, they  were  advised  to consider  surgery  at the  age  of seven or 10. Unfortunately, they died before she turned seven. “I am now 29 years old, but I have never experienced  menstruation and I have never developed  breasts.  People describe me as a man and others as a hermaphrodite; it hurts me and affects my self- esteem,”  she said. According to a medical examination, the doctors confirmed that Gloria had a very small uterus and no virginal opening. She has high levels of testosterone (a male hormone) which is responsible for her condition.


“Maria,  from Rakai district  narrates “I cried myself to sleep” Her flat chest and male voice keeps one wondering whether Maria, is a man or a woman. Doctors say she has dominating  male hormones in her body. What is more, she has ambiguous  genital organs. Maria narrates that “I grew up with my grandmother  in Kalisizo, Rakai district. While I was young, my grandmother never told me anything about my sex. When I turned 21, I realized I had a growing penis in my private parts.” “When I asked  my grandmother  about it, she gave me disquieting  look. I got distressed  and often  cried myself  to sleep. I kept pestering her for an answer, but in vain. One day, she explained that  that’s how I was born. She told me to keep it a secret to avoid being stigmatized.” Maria said every time she wanted to consult her friends about her condition,  she refrained  as she feared  being stigmatized. “It bothered me that I had this condition. I could not menstruate and I developed  a male voice. I also had no breasts at all. Eventually, people began calling me names. Others laugh at me saying ancestral spirits cursed me. I feel worthless, as a result,” she lamented.  Medical tests proved that Maria should have been a woman, although she has a masculine physique. However, the decision is hers to decide what sex she is. Nonetheless, if treatment is delayed, her condition might be irreversible by the age of 23.


“William, from Jinja district also narrates in “Not a boy and not a girl” by Vique- Ocean Kahunju which goes by “Being born with ambiguous sex characteristics can  be quite distressing.  People call you names  and  you struggle  to fit in society. Learning about  his intersexuality  tortured him deeply. The truth is that William, from Eastern Uganda, was a boy in a girl’s body. This upset him as arguments arose about him and some people considered him demonic. “I found out the “abnormality” when I started to menstruate at the age of 15. I nearly fainted, but opted to keep it a secret. I did not know how to explain this to any of my friends or relatives who had always known me as a boy,” says William. “My dilemma began when my parents died while I was a small boy. I was left under the care of a stepmother, who probably did not realize I had a problem,” William adds. He says the fear of being stigmatized kept him tight-lipped about his condition. “I knew my life had hit a bumpy phase and thought I would die. As time went by, matters were not helped as I continued to menstruate. Though physically I looked like a boy, it did not stop me from experiencing every natural process a girl undergoes.”


“I  developed   breasts.   My  hips   were  pronounced   and   my   voice  was feminine. But with the biology knowledge I had, I knew it was only girls that menstruate, develop  breasts and  hips.  I could  not find justification  as  to why this was happening  to me,” William laments. “Sometimes I desire to be in a relationship,  but I am not sure whether I should get a female  or male companion. I feel empty when people stare at me and call me names such as “hermaphrodite”. Sometimes  I wish I was not born. Doctors also discovered that William has a vaginal opening under his penis instead of male testicles. Medical tests  have further proved that  he has a birth canal and a uterus. “Having breasts and a vagina under my penis freaked me out. And the worst part is that whoever I ran to for comfort made fun of it. Some fueled gossip about my sex ambiguity.  It really worked my nerves. In fact, it forced me to drop out of school,” William narrates.


Sydney from Kenya also narrates “My family isolated me when I was young and I was not taken to school. In Kenya the parents will hide the child – if they are unable to kill it – and when one reaches teenage, they will ask you to leave the homestead and go far away. It is a scary time and one is left destitute. In some ways I think the intersex children in Uganda are now luckier that they have SIPD. My situation was worse and as a result, I have no skill I can use to earn a living.”

In responding to this gap, and as a pilot intervention, SIPD Uganda has trained eight (8) intersex teenagers  in hair dressing, construction,  and tailoring. In addition, three (3) intersex youth have been spent a week as SIPD interns to learn from the engagement and advocacy model SIPD uses in Uganda.


Healthcare Violations – Genital Mutilations

There are many children in Uganda who have had involuntary surgical procedures and  it has  been  parents and  doctors   who  have  spearheaded this.  A  mother in Mukono district said

“Nze bwenazaala omwana  wange,  namuzaala nobusajja  bwe nga butono nnyo mubutuufu nga tebulabika nakulabika. Kakati waliwo ekitongole ekyali kinyambako okulaba  nti omwana  wange afuna  obujjanjabi  obutuufu  naye omusawo eyalongoosa omwana wange ngagezaako  okutereza obusajja bwe teyambulira  buzibu buyinza  kukivamu  wadde  okusooka  okungamba ekintu kyoona wabula ye yagenda bugenzi mu maaso nakulongoosa mwana wange era ebintu  tebyatambula bulunji nakatono  nokutuusa  essawa  ya leero era mu  mutima  gwange  nejjusa  lwaki  netantala okutwala  omwana  ono  mu ddwaliro..naye  nange napapa  okola kino kubanga  nali ntaasa  maka gange omwami wange aleme kundekawo kuba yali ayagala amaanye  oba omwana gweyazaala  mulenzi  oba muwala  ate nga ne nazaala  wange nabenganda ze  bandi  bubi….nalowooza  nti singa  omwana  ono  aterera  ebyange  byali byakuba   birunji  naye  munange  byayongera  kwononeka   kuba  ebyava  ku dwaliro mukulongoosa tebyali birunji…kale munsabireko banange”.

The above  statement means  that  when  this  mother gave  birth,  the  child had  a very tiny penis  that  couldn’t  be  noticed.  The husband  wanted  to  know whether she  gave birth to a boy or a girl and the  in-laws were  on her neck. There was an organization that  helped  her  acquire  medical  help. It’s very unfortunate that  the doctor  who did the  surgery  didn’t tell her anything  like implications  and up today she is regretting why she made such a decision that her child should have a surgical procedure because what she was trying to protect, things just went  worse  as she was abandoned by the  husband  and the  in-laws basing on all that  happened since the surgery wasn’t a success  but rather  left emotional  and physical scars.

Photos 1 and 2 showing two  intersex children  who were  born  with penile  agenesis and surgeries didn’t go well



SIPD staff engaging a medical practitioner at a rural referral hospital


The baseline  confirmed  that  indeed  only 45%  of women  in Uganda  for example, deliver  at  the  hands  of  medical  healthcare providers  and  close  to  55%  women deliver at the  hands  of the  Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). Recently there  was a plan by government to  phase  out  TBAs and  replace  them  with non-traditional health  workers.  TBAs don’t  have  information   concerning rights  based  care  and management of babies  born  intersex  but  are  closer  to  and  more  affordable  for the  people  in the  communities than  medical  facilities.  The recommendation  of SIPD to government is to train and equip them  with enough  information  and tools rather  than to ban them. This survey revealed that the Western medical approach to intersex  is not dominant  in East Africa, which is largely more  rural than  urban, and that  the predominant approach is traditional  riddance.

In association with the  typical circumstances of giving birth in rural areas,  such as communal  attention and  superstitious traditions,  the  lives of intersex  babies  are constantly  at great  risk of one or other  form of discrimination.  Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda all don’t have a statutory health insurance system, and only about  4-5% of the population  is covered  by a sickness insurance scheme. In the case of a diagnosis of DSD, health insurance companies do not assume the costs for medical measures, because they tend to be vast and prolonged.  Some people pay for cosmetic genital surgery,  the  removal  of the  gonads  or hormone therapy  for themselves or for a relative. In rural areas, most of the births take place at home or in a birthing center. A traditional  birth attendant and an experienced elder are present for most  births. Every birth is traditionally a feast,  and is celebrated in the  presence of the  entire village community.  Soon after  the  birth, every single member of the  community welcomes,  holds, bathes,  and celebrates the child. Hence, it is generally impossible to conceal the newborn’s intersex characteristics if it is noticeable as early as at the time of birth.


Mental Health implications

Lack of medical monitoring  and access  to appropriate healthcare can imply serious health risks for someone intersex. On the other  hand, unnecessary, non-consensual surgery  or cultural and social impositions  on an infant  and the  mother leave life- long emotional  and physical scars and also unattended health implications of opting for secretive corrective  surgeries  versus  compromised immunity. (in the  event  of association with an individual’s HIV status)

Interviews with intersex teenagers and young people in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda all revealed  that  there  is a lot of stress.  The majority of intersex  people  feel that they  have  no future,  are  scared  all the  time  and succumb  to substance abuse  or criminal and suicidal tendencies.

Mental  health  challenges   were  also  major  among   parents of  intersex  children, mostly mothers. This finding was primarily in Uganda and Kenya. SIPD did not  get the opportunity to interview any parent  of an intersex  child in Rwanda.




Major Misconceptions: Intersexuality Vis a Vis homosexuality

In most  of East Africa, intersexuality  has lately also been  confused to be a form of sexual orientation, which is not the  case. Intersex is sex determination and during adolescence, may  or  may  not  lead  to  gender  identity  and/or  sexual  orientation questions. Gender determination is the self-concept of being either male or female while sexual orientation is the  romantic  feelings  and attractions towards  a person of  the  same  gender,  different or  both.  Thus people  who  are  intersex  may take any gender  identity  and  sexual  orientation (Liao 2007,  399).  However, they  just have particular  questions or worries  about  their  sexuality. Many intersex  consider that  they are remarkable men or women  who happen  to have a medical condition which has caused  some  unusual  physical features, which may disturb  in their  sex determination, and not gender  identity or sexual orientation. One intersex person  in Masaka district was quoted saying

“Kyangu  nnyo  omusajja   ayagala   basajja   banne   oba  omukazi   ayagala bakazi banne okuyitawo newataberawo amwogerako kuba kyaali kiba tekimwetimbye mu ffeesi naye nze eyazalibwa  ngobutonde bwange tebutukanye, oluba okuyita kubantu  ebiseera ebisinga ekiba kiddako kunjogerako ngabebuuza oba ndi mulenzi oba muwala ate tekikoma ku kino awo  ebirowoozo  byabwe  biddukira  mangu  ku ani oba  gwenjagala  munsi muno olwo banguwa okakasa nti ndi omu ku abo abagala basajja oba bakazi banabwe  kuba  nomubiri  gwange  guba  gubalemye  okutegeera  naye  ngate mwana  wattu okuzalibwa  mu mbeera eno tekitegeeza nti ngenda  kwebaka nabasajja oba bakazi banange….kale banange tulabye ennaku”.

The above statement translates thus:

“it’s very easy  for a gay or lesbian  person  to pass  and  no one will even know that it’s a gay or lesbian that has just passed  nor even asking if it’s a boy or a girl, but immediately an intersex  person passes,  people will start arguing whether it’s a boy or a girl and consequently  start to discuss his/her orientation and naming the intersex person all sorts of names. In fact since they fail in most cases to understand our bodies, they will think we are the ones who are the homosexuals.”

The intersex individual also notes that

“It hasn’t been an easy journey living with my beloved wife as many people in the community  thought I was a woman. I have been called all sorts of names and at some point I have been referred to as a lesbian. I have always defended myself by telling people that I am not a lesbian but a man who loves women. I am very sure many other intersex people are going through the same just that many of them are not bold enough to speak”.

He tells all this with his smiling face that gives hope to many other intersex teenagers knowing that  they aren’t alone.


Intersexuality Vis a Vis Gender/Sex

The notion  of  gender  was  introduced to  indicate  the  social  sex,  i.e. something “socially and historically constructed” as noted  by Magnus Danielson (intersexuality and  its medical  and  social implications,  2005)  in (Gamzoe, 2003,  23). The reason to introduce this concept was to separate biology from culture  and this makes  it easy to talk about  masculinity and femininity “without  the  need  to deduce this to biological differences” (Ambjornsson,  2004,  31): According to  a poststructuralist position “gender and other  dimensions  of the identity do not exist beyond everyday action” (Ambjornsson, 2004, 32). In other words, there is nothing that predetermines our identities  as women  and men.  “Gender is not  a cause  but rather  an effect  of certain  actions”

(Ambjornsson, 2003,  32) or more  aphoristically put, people  do not  act as they do due to who they are; people become who they are due to how they act. But for it to be more  convincing, it requires  continuous recreation. Thus, gender  is not a static condition, but rather  an infinite repetition of normalized  behavioral patterns.

However, in this manner  sex remains  “a natural, unproblemitized and obvious representation for the  biological sex” (Rosenberg in Butler, 2005,  22). Therefore, with the separation of culture and biology, the seemingly non-problematic status of the natural sex is reinforced. This might be one of the reasons why similar reasoning, as that  regarding  gender,  is applied to the concept of sex.

According to Butler (1990) it is impossible to keep sex (biology) and gender  (culture) detached. They are  constructed in the  same  manner,  i.e. through  language  and action.  Femininity and  masculinity  are  therefore an  enforced quoting  of a norm whose   historicity   is  permanently  united   with  relations   shaped   by  discipline, regulation  and punishment (Butler, 2005). It is with these codes  of gender  that  the body is sexed.  And if gender  signifies the  cultural part  of the  sexed  body, then  it follows that  one gender  simply can’t be attached to one sex in an ambiguous way as for the case of an intersex  child.

If we agree  to the permanence in binary sex, it isn’t given that the constructions of “men” will exclusively be placed to male bodies and that women exclusively describe female  bodies  (ibid). Consequently,  masculinity  and  femininity  can  represent  any body and even if sex would have been  binary in its morphology,  there  is no reason to assume the existence of only two genders.

The conclusion from reviewed literature is that  no one is by design man or woman.


“Man” and  “Woman” are  rather   constructed. At  the  very  first  moment of  life, when the  midwife makes  the  sex of the  child known, sex is being constructed via performativity.  This announcement informs  those  around  the  child about  how to behave  towards  it. “We fill up the  genitals  with meaning  and  decide  that  exactly those  parts of the body should found the division of people in two groups” (Dahlen, 2006, 38).

In Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, interviews with 200 parents/guardians revealed  that they worry that the child will not fit in at school and with peers. There is an urge for sexual normalization, generally justified with the noble ambition to preclude intense social stigma that may await a child who is identified and labeled as sexually deviant.

But  while  classifying  others   generally  enables   us  to  begin  formulating   social expectations as we engage in social encounters, it is not only confusing but a source of great  social dilemma for a person  born with ambiguous sex characteristics.



This section  examines  what has been  done  in the area of civic education, lobbying and  policy advocacy  for the  rights  of intersex  children, with special  emphasis  on the achievements made, and the challenges  that  need  to be addressed in order to improve and increase a better and safer quality of life. This section also looks on the philosophical underlying principles for the protection of intersex  of children, which inform organizing in the East African region.

SIPD is at the forefront of intersex organizing in Uganda and it’s the only exclusively intersex organization in Uganda and East Africa at large. Over the past eight years, it has networked around intersex organizing autonomously and in alliance with sexual minority rights organizing, as well as in alliance with children’s rights organizing  in other  parts  of the  region.  In 2014,  SIPD organized  the  first ever  regional  intersex meeting where  20  intersex  advocates and  allies  from  Rwanda,  Burundi,  Kenya, Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda convened in Uganda to strategize and plan for the way forward.  The key approach to organizing  for SIPD is Public Education. This is done through  community  engagement, alliances  building, mentorships, empowerment and learning interventions, policy advocacy, and media  engagement.  This is done nationally,  regionally, and  internationally.  While these efforts  have  yielded  more openness and  visibility, there   are  a  few  concerns, which  have  been   affecting intersex  organizing  in Uganda which included; Intersex being silenced  within wider LGBT organizing. For the past decade of LGBT organizing in East Africa, intersex has always been  mentioned as part of the  targeted sexual minorities  but that’s all it is

– a mention  and a very insignificant mention  at that.  Subsequently,  the wrap up in the LGBTI acronym has been more of a disadvantage than an advantage in terms  of visibility, support,  funding, and security.

Interviews  with all 30  field based  focal  persons SIPD  is working with reveal  that socialization has forced  SIPD’s organizing to operate along gender  binaries of male and  female  body  politics  and  gender  identity.    Intersex  people  who  don’t  really conform  to female  or male identities  are ostracized and forced  to conform  to the two normative  and accepted sexes and genders.

This study  also revealed  that  different strategies – though  miniscule  – are  being implemented in the  different East  African  countries – Kenya, and  Rwanda  and further  down in Zimbabwe, South  Africa, and  Zambia and  different organizations are seeking information  and allies to augment their advocacy strategies for intersex rights. And there  is a promise  on the horizon of a vibrant intersex movement in the region.   For example, in Kenya, the primary advocacy efforts  by both GMAT and the Transgender Education and Advocacy organization have been in the area of ensuring registration of intersex  children  even  with their  indeterminate sex identities.  No specific advocacy efforts  were found in force in Rwanda.


The Registration of intersex children  as citizens

Both SIPD Uganda  and  GMAT  Kenya  have  successfully  advocated and  continue to advocate for amendments around  the legal recognition of intersex  children – even without a definite sex assignment – as citizens.

There is, however,  a lot of work needed to shift social attitudes to meet  with legal progression. In all the  three  East African countries under  this study, there  is still a huge  sense  of statelessness for intersex  people.  Addressing this need  is still high on the radar of priorities for intersex  advocates and allies in the region. SIPD called a regional meeting in Kampala to initiate this discussion.


Photographs from the  SIPD regional Intersex convening



The regional meeting held in Kampala by SIPD Uganda to initiate a regional organizing agenda   for  intersex  health  and  rights  had  five  key critical  aims;  A). Amplifying advocacy  voices around  health  and rights  for intersex  children and people  in East Africa, technical  support  and  facilitating  knowledge  transfer.  B). Having a critical mass of intersex allies and stakeholders who are very confident in addressing issues surrounding the  right  to  health,  choice,  life and  dignity for intersex  children  and people.  C). Documenting  and  disseminating  best   practices  concerning  intersex interventions from  a regional  focus.  And D). Up lifting the  support  and  advocacy networks  for intersex  health  and rights in the East African region.

International advocacy tools specific to the  rights  of intersex people

The Yogyakarta  Principles on the  protection of intersex children’s rights

As per  the  international organizations and  our  local organizations like SIPD  are working to increase protections for children against medical abuse, including unnecessary surgeries  performed on  intersex  infants  ( Unfortunately  International Human Rights instruments don’t specifically address the protection of intersex  children and people,  the  only mention  of these protections are  in 2006  Yogyakarta principles  which  essentially  address gender  identity  and sexual orientation.

In 2006,  a group  of international human  rights  experts  developed  the  Yogyakarta Principles to provide a universal guide for human rights regarding  sexual orientation and  gender  identity  ( Two relevant  articles  in this principle include:

“States  shall “(t) take  all necessary legislative, administration and other  measures to  ensure  that  no child’s body is irreversibly altered  by medical  procedures in an attempt to impose  a gender  identity  without  the  full, free  and informed  consent of the child in accordance with the age and maturity of the child and guided by the principle that  in all actions  concerning children, the best  interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” (Princ. 18(B))

“States shall “(e) stablish child protection mechanisms whereby no child is at risk of, or subjected to, medical abuse.” (Princ. 18 (C))

The Yogyakarta principles come in force to protect infants born with DSD/congenital disorders  because infants born visibly with intersex have historically been  “treated” with surgery  to  “normalize  their  genitalia”  (Tamar-Mattis, supra  note  4, 60) most often   by doctors   following  the  “concealment method,”   whereby  they  assign  a gender,  modify the  genitals  accordingly, and  conceal  the  intersex  condition  from everyone, including the patient  (Id.64-67). While this is still a common practice today, some  doctors  are changing  the  way they approach intersex  infants  in response to recommendations from advocacy  groups  like SIPD (Uganda), TEA in Kenya, Gender Minority Trust in Kenya, Health Development  Initiative in Rwanda, other  legislative allies, and the coming into force of The Yogyakarta principles(Id.64, 77-78).





A.R. Byaruhanga wrote in A Journal of Makerere University Convocation:

“With regard  to  the  bodily aspect,  the  human  person’s  basic  needs  have  to  be satisfied.  These  include  food,  shelter  and  protection. In the  absence of  any  of these,  social development is clearly unaffirmable.  Regarding  the  spiritual  aspect, the  human  person  needs  ideas of freedom, justice, honor, truth…….Lack of any of these implies lack of development.”

The baseline  on sex development and  gender  non-conforming identity  dilemmas among  children in Uganda, Kenya, and  Rwanda was made  to investigate the  lived realities of Intersex people in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda. The survey showed that in all the target East African countries of Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, intersex children and people  continue to be pushed  further  to the  extreme margins  – even  within the  wider LGBT community,  which makes  some  mention  of this population.  It also showed that intersex children and people are affected by cultural, moral, social and religious fundamentalisms which society uses  to reproof  the  existence of intersex people in East Africa.

John  Rawls  (1971)  John  Rawls  narrates that  justice  is not  only impartiality  but also treating people  fairly and in proportion to their needs  as well as their merits. There  are  inequalities  of birth  in this  case  of the  children  born  with ambiguous sex characteristics or DSDs (what Rawls calls the  ‘natural lottery’), all these create undeserved disadvantages for intersex  people.  Rawl arges  us to change  the  social system  so that it doesn’t permit injustices to occur. According to him, a socially just society  is a product  of a social contract founded  on three  major principles which include a) the  principle of liberty b) the  principle of difference and c) the  principle of equality.  The principle of equality  requires  public authorities to  implement  an atmosphere of  equal  opportunity where  everyone   has  a  reasonable chance   of obtaining  a decent life, especially and  those  with fewer  native  assets should  be compensated. Intersex children and people have to be part of this focus and cannot continue to be mistreated and thrown to the extreme margins of society.




In order to protect the intersex children and people, we should make our domesticated laws on  children  in Uganda,  Kenya, and  Rwanda  more  practical  and  incorporate within them  the provisions of children with ambiguous sex characteristics as it was done with children born with disability. The children’s statutes and Acts which were enacted to in all three  East countries in this survey.

Stop harmful unnecessary surgeries: Intersex Genital Surgery on intersex infants is unnecessary and  a violation of bodily integrity.  It causes  a myriad of negative outcomes, including:

ˠ Decreased or destroyed sexual sensation, including inability to orgasm

ˠ Chronic pain and scar tissue

ˠ Additional surgery arising from complications due to the first surgery

ˠ  Shame  and  depression  from  being  made   to  feel  that   their  bodies   are inadequate

ˠ Potential discordance with gender  identity

ˠ      Sterilization  – the  denial  of the  fundamental right  to  reproduction (www.

Reform and introduce a specific law protecting intersex children and people, enabling access  to  care,  and  protection of  intersex  children  and  people.  The children’s act provides a legal and institutional  framework  for child care protection. It defines  rights,  which  all children  in Uganda  have,  accords   specific  rights  for children  with disabilities  to  ensure  equal  opportunities, and  obliges  the  parents or any person  in custody  over the  child to maintain  the  child ensuring  education; guidance  , immunization,  adequate diet,  shelter  and  medical  care.  Therefore  as this is the case with other  children also it should be the case with intersex  children across  East Africa and not just in Uganda.

Every intersex child has the  right to: Stay and live with parents;  Education and guidance;  Immunization; Adequate diet; Shelter; Medical attention; Assistance  and accommodation if in need;  Leisure and participate in sports,  and positive  cultural and artistic activities;

Every  intersex child  should  be  protected from:  Any form  of  discrimination, violence,  abuse   and  neglect,   and  from  social  or  customary   practices  such  as infanticide,   and   genital   mutilations,   which  are   harmful   to  the   child’s  health, education, or mental, physical or moral development;

The findings in this study should  be referenced in order to create awareness about  the  human  rights  and realities of intersex children and people  in most of Eastern Africa.

Sex  and  gender based violence as  pertains to  intersex people should  be continuously  documented  since  most   intersex   people   report   human   rights abuses  such  as  the  non  –consensual, irrevocable  surgical  interventions to  which they are subjected,

Include intersex people in health and social development education, service access, and employment policies which must be designed  to prevent  harassment, abuse,  and discrimination.

Government and  non-state institutions should   work  together to  support intersex inclusion in health and human rights initiatives. Support intersex inclusion in relevant  life supporting programs and  promote the  advancement of  intersex children and people at large.

A central registry should  be put in place  where  such births can be recorded to ease  government planning and aiding policy change.



About SIPD Uganda

SIPD is a grass root, nonprofit  human  rights organization in Uganda, which through community outreach and engagement, provides reliable  and objective information on  atypical  sex  development  issues   and  particularly  addresses  the   need   for organized  medical,  psychological  support,  public  education as  well as  advocacy for human  rights  protection of intersex  children and people.  It was founded  by a Ugandan born with an intersex condition backed by other advocates for the rights of children, women and other  marginalized populations as a response to the needs  of Ugandan children and people with intersex conditions/DSD in Uganda. SIPD provides support  for and advocates for the  human  rights of children and people  with DSDs throughout Uganda.


SIPD Vision

A supportive environment that  allows intersex people to  make  informed and voluntary decisions regarding their  gender and sexual identity.


Goal of SIPD

Ending stigma,  discrimination,  and  secrecy  surrounding children  and  people  with intersex conditions/DSD by breaking through  the current conservative thinking boundaries, which  are  closed  to  constructive dialogue  on  gender  and  sexuality issues by showcasing  the reality and incidence of intersexuality /DSD in Uganda and the East African region.

Work towards  a more  compassionate, humane, open  and tolerant society through innovative   communication  approaches   such   as   educational  and   informative awareness drives  aimed  at  challenging  the  exclusion  of populations affected  by intersexuality/DSD from social legal, economic and political frameworks.

Work with medical practitioners to increase the availability and clarity of information on  DSD and  to  ensure   that  this  information   is appropriately  interpreted at  the

grassroots level where  most  of the  socially orchestrated marginalization,  hostility and ignorance originate.


SIPD Mission

To create awareness on intersex/DSD conditions  and  advocate for a more  open, tolerant and supportive society towards children and people with intersex conditions and to advocate for protection, welfare  and respect for the     human  rights  of all such persons in Uganda.


Populations of concern

Children and people with intersex conditions/DSD and parents of children with DSDs, as well as Gender Variant People.


Main activities

ˠ Awareness Raising ˠ Public education ˠ      Capacity building

ˠ Support (Counseling and information)

ˠ Medical and psychosocial service referrals

ˠ Advocacy and networking



African Commission on Human  People’s Rights, Decision of 15 May 2006, Zimbabwe NGO Human Rights Forum v. Zimbabwe, Communication No. 245/2002, para. 169.

A  Journal  of Makerere University Convocation: A.R. Byaruhanga

The Registration of Persons Act 2015

The constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995

Baby “A” Vs the Attorney General (AG) and others

Petition number 266 of 2014)

The Persons Deprived of Liberty Act 2014 of Kenya

SIPD-Uganda, (2015) Human Rights Violations of intersex children and people in Uganda (2015)

Anne  Tamar-Mattis,  2006; “Exceptions  to  the Rule: Curing the Law’s Failure to Protect Intersex Infants”, 21 Berkeley.  J. Gender  L. & Just.

Anne Tamar-Mattis, Medical Decision Making and the Child with a DSD, ENDOCRINE TODAY (Nov.

10, 2008), available at view.aspx?rid=32542 (hereinafter  ENDOCRINE TODAY)

Alice Dreger & Ellen K. Feder, Bad Vibrations, BIOETHICS FORUM (June 16, 2010), http:// aspx?id=4730&blogid=14.

Arana, M (2005) A human rights investigation into the medical “normalization” of intersex people.

Adkins, R (1990) Where “Sex” Is Born (e): Intersexed Births and the Social Urgency of Heterosexuality. Journal of Medical Humanities, Vol. 20, No. 2. P. 117-133.

Butler, J   (1990) Bodies that  matter.  Taylor  & Francis Ltd.

Butler, J (2004)  Undoing Gender. Routledge. Consortium  on  Disorders of  Sex  Development.

Handbook for Parents. 2006.

Consortium  on  Disorders of  Sex  Development. Clinical Guidelines for the management of Disorders of Sex Development in Childhood. 2006.

Danielson, M. 2005: Intersexuality and its medical and  social implications,  C-uppsats,  10  poang. Malmo Hogskola: HalsaochSamhalle.

Dreger (ed.) (1999) Intersex in the Age of Ethics. University Publishing Groups.

Dreger, A (1998) Hermaphrodites and the Medical

Invention of Sex. Harvard University Press.

Dreger, A  (undated)  Shifting  the  Paradigm of

Intersex Treatment.

Fausto-Sterling, A (2000) How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis. American Journal of Human Biology 12:151-166.

Fausto-sterling,  A (2000) Sexing the Body. Basic Books.

Fausto-Sterling, A  (1987) Society writes biology, biology constructs gender. Daedalus Cambridge, 116(1987):4.

Fausto-Sterling, A  (1993) The Five Sexes:  Why

Male and Female are not Enough. The Sciences, 33:2, pp. 20-24.

Frequently Asked questions: Intersex Conditions, Intersex Soc’y of N. AM., conditions (last visited January 15, 2014).

How common is Intersex? Supra note 6

Law  Students  for Reproductive Justice:  Intersex rights and reproductive justice 2013.

Mazique,  J.R.  1965 “The  emergency of African Personality in; The Philosophy of Pan-Africanisms” edited by S.O, Mezu, Washington D.C; Georgetown University Press.

Organization    Int’l    Des   Intersexues,  (last  visited  January   15, 2014).

Tamar_mattis, Supra note 4

The    Yogyakarta    Principles:     Principles   on the application of Int’l Human  rights law in relation   to   Sexual   Orientation   and   Gender Identity  (Mar.  2007), available at  http://www.





















































Support Initiative for People with Congenital Disorders,


Ntinda – Bukoto  Road Kampala, Uganda

Tel: +256  414  693  861



For the past decade, SIPD Uganda has worked and spoken out about the need to recognize and respect the rights of intersex children and people in Uganda, in the East African region, in Africa, and internationally.  These engagements have taken us knocking on the doors of religious leaders, parents, community leaders, educators, policy makers, media, regional opinion makers in the fields of law and medicine, and international development partners, demanding that intersex health and human rights are given due attention and placed on the forefront at the discussion table for the human rights of sexual and gender minorities.

It has been a journey that we – as the team at SIPD – are proud to have taken and feel thrilled to see that this voice and efforts, met with more intersex voices on the continent and around the world to bring about the visibility we celebrate today. The visibility is still nascent but it is present. And while there is still a lot of work ahead of us, we would like to pause and celebrate our work and our journey. We also want to celebrate the journeys of all the beautiful and brave intersex people whose stories and voices continue to positively influence and change the way intersex children and people are treated in Uganda, in the region, and around the world.

We especially celebrate recognition within international human rights structures at the United Nations and at the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights on marking the 2016 Intersex Awareness Day, SIPD Uganda continues to call on the Ugandan government to

  • Address violations and discrimination against intersex youth and adults on the basis of their intersex and gender non-conforming traits at school, at work, at healthcare facilities, and in families.
  • Sensitize its relevant ministries – Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Gender , Labour, and Social Development – on the issue of sex determination
  • Document and follow up intersex births at all hospitals and the Traditional Birth Attendants’ facilities, in order to advance education on the issue and mitigate stigma.
  • Provide healthcare personnel with relevant training on how to care for intersex children and patients with respect to their bodily integrity and mental wellbeing.


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AUGUST  2015




Table of Contents


List of acronyms………………………………………………………………………………………………..4




Analysis: Human Rights Violations in Uganda of children and people with DSDs………..8

a)    Surgery without consent……………………………………………………………………………………………………….8

b)     Violation of the rights to non discrimination at school……………………………………………………………9

c)    Violation of a child’s rights to a family (Abandonment)………………………………………………………….10

d)     Violation of the right to health (Prejudice and stigma when seeking health services…………………11

e) Family and community discrimination……………………………………………………………………………………11

f)     Lack of legal protection………………………………………………………………………………………………………12


1. To government through the Ministry of Health (MoH)……………………………………………………………..13

2. To parents……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………15

3. To Religious Leaders…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….15

4. To Uganda Parliament………………………………………………………………………………………………………….15

5. To the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES)…………………………………………………………………….15

6. To the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).15



  • Intersex /DSDs: Intersex can be looked at as a condition in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male or a person born with genitals that lie between male and female.

Medically referred to as Disorders of Sex Development, “Intersex” is a general term for being physically or physiologically “between male and female”. Intersex people are born with a sex differentiation that makes the anatomy of their bodies atypical and their sex classification indeterminate.     For many, it’s at the chromosomal level, others at the hormonal level and for the most obvious ones it’s at the genital level.

  • Intersexphobia: It’s  an  irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against intersex people.
  • Best Guess  Surgical  Strategy: This involves using genetic tests and historical case studies in order to determine what gender (girl or boy) an intersex child will most likely feel most comfortable in. This strategy usually also involves a tape measure test of the infant’s genitals and once the tests are performed doctors choose a gender for the intersex child to be raised in and then surgery is performed on the intersex infant’s external genitalia to make it physically look either male or female.
  • Best Guess Non  Surgical strategy:    This   involves   using genetic tests and historical data studies in order to determine what gender  (girl  or  boy)  an  intersex child will most likely feel most comfortable in. The intersex child is then raised in that gender with the understanding that the intersex person may choose a different gender at another point of their life possibly during teenage years. This goes hand in hand with counseling and education for both the family and the intersex person to better understand and deal with the social, cultural and the legal issues related to intersexuality.
  • Sex: Either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.
  • Sex Determination:  This  is  the sex classification or assignment of male or female done either at birth or later on in life.
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR): Sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of health and it is a personal sense of  sexual  well  being  as well as the absence of disease, infections or illness associated with sexual  and  reproductive  activity. As such it includes issues of self esteem,   self   expression,   caring for  others  and  being  cared  for as well as a feeling of belonging attached to cultural and social values and associations. Sexual and reproductive health therefore can be described as the positive integration of physical, emotional, intellectual   and   social   aspects of sexuality. Sexuality influences feelings, thoughts, interactions and actions within the self and between the self and community. Our sexuality is part of what motivates us to seek and find pleasure in our body make up, physical contact, emotional and intimate relations, as well as reproduction.



SIPD:  Support  Initiative  for  People  with Congenital Disorders

HRAPF:  Human  Rights  Awareness  and Promotion Forum

UHRC: Uganda Human Rights Commission

CSOs: Civil Society organisations

MoH: Ministry of Health

ICESCR:    International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

DSD:  Differences of Sex Development



SIPD   would   like   to   acknowledge   the role of the following organisations in the development of this report.

Members of the Consortium on monitoring violations, for the support provided in guiding SIPD to document the violations of Intersex persons and also editing this report. These are: Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and Rainbaw Health Foundation (RHF).

Benetech, for the technical and financial support in the publication of this report.



The impulsion behind the Uganda report  of  violations  of  children and people born with Differences or Disorders of Sex Development (DSDs) is to demonstrate that children and people born with DSDs are greatly affected and  discriminated  in  Uganda  compared to other groups and to show the different gaps  within  the  service  prerequisite  for this  particular  constituency.  This  report will be used to educate the general public, religious leaders, Members of Parliament, Ministry of Health (MoH) officials, and the medical fraternity in Uganda, Civil Society, Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES), the international Community as well as informing policies and policy makers on the best ways and practices on how to come up with tools and guidelines that can help integrate children and people born with DSDs in all the development policies and programs of their country.

More  so,  this  report  will  illustrate  cases of lived realities of intersex children and people in Uganda as there have been sections of communities in recent years who have tried to reproof intersex people as a population haunted by witchcraft and whose redemption lies in the same and they have succeeded in doing this using culture,  religion  and  morality.  It  should be noted that Intersex people perhaps more than any other groups in society are more prone to manipulations, blackmail, and criminal tendencies, – whether these are directed towards the self (suicide) or at others (as a way of retaliating against society). All of these result in major mental health and sexual violence issues. In fact, the  violation  of  intersex  people’s  rights has led to spiritual, emotional shame and embarrassment.

Intersex or what is medically referred to as Disorders of Sex Development is a general term for being physically or physiologically “between male and female”. It should be clearly noted that, intersex people are born with a sex differentiation which makes the anatomy of their bodies atypical and their sexual identity indistinct. For many it’s at the chromosomal level, others at the hormonal level  and  for  the  most  obvious  ones  is at  the  genital  level.  With  children  born this way, it is usually difficult for delivery personnel  –  whether  midwives,  doctors, or traditional birth attendants to determine just by looking at the child whether it is a male or female child.

Most intersex children and people are assigned   a   female   sex   at   birth   and raised to identify as women. However, female biological milestones, such as menses, breast development, and body phenotypically development do not conform to the assigned sex. Instead, androgen – driven  milestones  –  which  should  occur in males start to manifest, such a beard growth, voice deepening, and body hair growth. These developments are not only a  source  of  immense  inner  trauma  but also a huge attraction for external ridicule and stigma. These often lead to suicidal tendencies, school drop-out, and criminal tendencies.

Inopportunely in Uganda, when an intersex child is born, the family treats the birth as a secret and will isolate the child from the general public. In most cases the mother of such a child will be frowned upon and usually superstitions loom large as families consult witchdoctors, mediums and traditional healers for a solution. In many instances, the mother will work with either a traditional medicine practitioner or some other ally to kill the child. The approach that is used by the “elite” is a concealment approach where an intersex child will be hidden and “offered” up for surgery without conclusive and required tests to warrant such surgeries and without proper surgical or psycho-social support facilities. To make the matters worse, in some cultures children with DSDs are never allowed to grow up to be adults.  Most mothers of children with DSDs abandon them for dead in pit latrines and deadly forest areas and run away from their homes for fear of possible prejudices from family and in-laws. In fact, intersex may be as common as cystic fibrosis but it is less much spoken about perhaps because sex  and  gender  tend  to  be  considered such fundamental parts of our identity that people are sometimes reluctant to discuss cases where sex is unclear.

While this is totally a genetic and sexual and reproductive health condition, it is not treated as such by both medical personnel and society. It is rather treated a shame and a taboo. As a result, the occurrences of such births and clinical encounters have not yet been recognised by the Ministry of Health because these reports are never documented or communicated from the medical   and   delivery   facilities.   There is consequently no intervention policy targeting  this  population.  The  violations of the rights of intersex people in Uganda are within almost all walks of life starting from home, schools, health centers and the most worrying scenario is that even the law in Uganda discriminates against them as exemplified by the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, which under Cap 309 has a provision that restricts people above 21 years of age to change the sex details in the Births Register.

This report seeks to bring to the attention of the Ministry of Health the realities of sex development irregularities and the huge inequities  that  exist  in  service  provision and information availability to individuals concerned, parents of such children, healthcare practitioners, institutions of learning, and the general public. It generally recommends that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development should ensure that there  is  a  Gender  harmonisation  policy, for  the  inclusion  of  children  and  people with intersex conditions (Disorders of Sex Development) in the national healthcare implementation plan. Such a policy will mean   that   healthcare   practitioners   at all levels will work with intersex children and people in an intentional and mutually supportive way that challenges sex and gender norms, catalyses the achievement of gender equality, and improves health.

In Uganda enormous resources from government and international partners have been and are still being put to so many health programs like Malaria and HIV prevention and treatment etc. However, gender is still a key social determinant of inequalities in accessing some of these programs due to lack of appropriate health care, information, and referral services for intersex children and people. For instance by the production of this report, in Uganda there is nothing like a laboratory that makes chromosomal tests for children and people who may need this determinant.

Since sexuality and sexual and reproductive health is a central aspect of being human throughout life – encompassing sex development in utero, sex determination at birth, gender identities and roles, secondary  sex  characteristics,  intimacy and  reproduction  –  intersexuality  needs to be addressed as a critical sexual and reproductive health and rights issue by developing a policy framework that enables research, planning, and programming for this population and this will help to curb down many of the violations facing this population since human dignity for children and people with DSDs in Uganda has not been considered at all.



The research team employed a qualitative approach     to     collect,     analyse     and document    information    for    the    report. The    different    qualitative    methods    of data   collection  used  are  discussed  as  follows:

Data used to formulate this report has been collected through the different outreaches done by SIPD. Data was obtained through both primary and secondary sources. The most common sources used to collect data for this report were:  media review and personal interviews   with   intersex   youth,   intersex   adults, service providers, parents, guardians, and civic and religious leaders in 25 districts where SIPD already does outreach and has field based point persons. Some of the data used in the report had been collected over a long period through interactions between SIPD and intersex persons that we serve.


Findings and analysis: Human Rights Violations in Uganda of children and people with DSDs

 a) Surgery without consent

In the case of some intersex people, surgical interventions gone wrong have had cascading consequences that have led to rights violations, including interference with the children’s social life.

Some of these surgeries are done without proper or any consent, as usually the parents are driven by fear and they leave the decision in the hands of the medical doctors.

We recorded 22 cases of surgery without  consent.  An  example  is the case of a child born in Tororo with a penile agenesis, (born without a penis), this child had a non-consensual surgical operation where the mother was so frightened by the child’s case. The mother was always threatened by the husband as he could always blame her for giving birth to such a child. Finally the  husband  left  the  family  and the mother was left with the responsibility of looking after her children and this was  worsened by    the    triple role burden of   women.   In a   bid   to   look for the family support, the mother took the child to hospital for a surgical operation. The operation was not a success as doctors tried to create a penis for the little boy and after three months the penis fell off yet a lot of money had been spent on this little boy. The current situation for this boy is worrying as he is now oozing pus and his life is in peril. The conditions under which the consent for the surgery was given were not conducive for her to make an informed decision.

In this case therefore, the child’s right of making an informed decision is totally denied since many of these discussions are held when the  child  is  still  young  and  can’t be part and parcel of the decision making processes. While Ugandan law has a procedure for parents consenting for children, and it is usually okay for them to do so, it is critical to ensure that parents are in an objective and informed state of mind at the time. As a result of our findings,  SIPD  encourages  non- surgical alternatives to addressing intersex conditions among infants.

It   should   be   noted   that   there are    many    cases    of    medical mal-practice towards intersex children in Uganda, which remain undocumented and this is just because many parents hardly understand that early unnecessary surgeries constitute a violation of a child’s right since it denies them to be part and parcel of a decision that determines their gender. We found out that this violation is driven by the enormous pressure from mostly family in-laws who need a concrete answer of whether the new born is male or female for celebrations to start. They mind less of the emotional and physical irreversible scars that are left on the child.

Photograph  showing  a  photo  of  a child who had unconsensual surgery/ operation

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Source: Field data


In  Uganda  SIPD  advocates  for the “Best Guess Non-Surgical Strategy” as contrasted to the “Best Guess  surgical  strategy’ because the non-surgical option gives room to  the  intersex  child  to  be  part and to participate actively in all or most of the decisions regarding his/her body. This option is also accompanied  by  counseling  and education   for   both   the   parents and  the  intersex  person  in  order to better comprehend the social, cultural  and  legal  issues  related to intersexuality/disorders of sex development in Uganda.

b) Violation of the right to non-discrimination at school

Many children in Uganda have dropped out of schools due the mounting sense of shame and the increasing discrimination in schools as far as their sex is concerned.

SIPD has reports of 34 intersex school drop outs as a result of discrimination and stigma. Different intersex children experience different sexual development milestones as they grow up which don’t correspond with the gender that  they identify with. Therefore, due to the intense pressure in schools, these children find it hard staying in school.

For example a child in Kabale who had ovaries, a uterus and also experienced  menses  was  raised as a girl for the first ten years of life; but as his body took on male gender attributes with the onset of adolescence  he  was  abandoned by  his  family.  In  a  bid  to  live  in this hostile environment, he built himself a grass x        ` t h a t c h e d house to live in and was able to pay for his upkeep and his school fees, but when menses begun, this child had to drop out of school as he was always bullied by fellow students as they had never seen a boy menstruating.

Below   is   a   photograph   of   a teenager   who   has   suffered intense  discrimination  at  school

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Source: Field data 2014

The teenager in the photograph above has faced discrimination at school and he has kept on changing schools due to the overwhelming questions regarding his identity by fellow students. In his own words, “I think I am not human, many times  I  feel  like  killing  myself. I always ask myself why I was born like this. Many people have tried to explain to me why this could have happened but still I am mystified. I think I should die and get rid of these questions that keep on coming to my mind. “                                                 

c) Violation  to  a  child’s  right  to family (Abandonment)

Intersex conditions are a health problem, which  has  a  major  impact  on  humanity and  their  wellbeing  but  has  been  given very little sensitisation. According to our reference doctors in Mulago National Referral Hospital) at least three children are born with a disorder of sex development condition   every   week.   It   should   also be noted that these are the noticeable conditions but what of those that are born with these conditions that can not be seen shortly after birth? There are those ones whose conditions can be seen later in life i.e. sex development milestones may occur and they compromise the gender that was assigned at birth. However, the shame and failure to find the right answers to the many questions parents ask after getting such a child has cost lives of many children.

We received 51 cases of abandonment. Some of these reports came from orphanages that are part of the Children at Risk Action Network, others from media review, and others from direct contact by traditional birth attendants, hospital staff, and community members. An example is a child born with a DSD condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) in Kampala 1997 was abandoned by the father as he argued that this was a bad omen that was supposed to be away from the rest of the family. He also sent away the mother such that the evil spirit can follow them and live the family alone. This child because of her condition was raised as a girl but at 17 she felt was not a girl. Biologically, she had a male sex chromosome pattern and she always felt like a boy. She had surgery at one hospital in Kampala and by the time this report has been compiled he is living happily as a boy.

There are 42 reported cases of children who were killed in cleansing rituals owing to their intersex condition – because they were believed to be a curse. We also found out  that the standard treatment of intersex infants is killing them shortly after birth. Families are breaking apart. We dealt with couples where the husband is not willing to accept the responsibility to father and intersex child.

Photograph below showing a child who was abandoned by the mother in a hospital

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Source: Field data

It is critical that the MoH   continues working  with  civil  society  organizations to come up with clear guidelines on how children and people with DSDs should be treated.


d)  Violation of  the  right  to  health (Prejudice and stigma when seeking health services)

International Human Rights Law affirms the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and proscribes discrimination in access to health care on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

However, intersexphobic practices and attitudes on the part of health-care providers deter intersex persons in Uganda from seeking services out of concerns around breaches of confidentiality, stigma, and potentially violent reprisals. In fact to avoid possible prejudices from sections of communities, parents of intersex children have adopted a “Best Guess Surgical Strategy”  in  treating  their  children  and this has left both physical and emotional scars. SIPD recorded 48 such cases.  For example a child born in Masaka was cut badly during a surgical procedure to make his external genitalia “match” his presumed gender. The child’s family abandoned him claiming he is too expensive and that they cannot provide him with housing and food. Staff members at the hospital where the boy has been have said it in public that they are tired of this boy because of his endless problems.


e) Family  and   community discrimination

Many families in Uganda for children and people with differences of sex development have tried to extend enormous support towards this population but they have also taken it upon themselves to determine sex of their children and thus therefore enforced gender norms and punished indiscretions. As a result many children with disorders of sex development find themselves excluded from family homes and this has accelerated intersex-phobia in Uganda where many of these violations have been caused by the immediate family members. In fact, instead of  extending  support  to  these  families they end up ill advising the parents thus misleading them into harsh decisions to their children who have at times even killed them.

For many intersex persons in Uganda, social exclusion begins at birth, as exemplified by the story of a child who was born with ambiguous genitalia in Rakai district which is  amongst  the  50  districts  where  SIPD has put emphasis. The child’s mother was forced to leave the family home because family  members  thought  the  child  was an omen and would bring bad luck to the family. Before telling the mother to take her child and leave, some relatives physically attacked her for giving birth to an intersex child. Having been forced from her home, the mother now has no land to grow food and has no financial means to afford food.

Photograph of an intersex child who has been greatly discriminated by family and community

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Source: Field data

The above child has been greatly discriminated  due  to  his/her  confusing sex determination as she was raised as a girl but after several tests by medical doctors, she is said to be a boy. Intense discrimination emanated from here and some people in the community are seeing her as abnormal.

f )           Lack of legal protection

The Ugandan constitution under the Registration of births and change of name/ sex vis a – vis people with DSDs

The Births and Deaths Registration Act Cap 309 provides the framework for registration of births and deaths as well as change of names and sex. Births are supposed to be registered within three months of the date of birth of a live child. This condition provision requires all children to be registered and therefore, it doesn’t leave out anyone including those children with DSDs.

It is also important to note that under this law, if a child after being registered either through an operation or otherwise, changes from a female to male or from a male to a female and the change is certified by a medical doctor, the Registrar of the Births and Deaths registration district in which the birth is registered shall, with the approval of the registrar general and on the application of the parent or guardian of that child alters the particulars of the child which appear on the birth register. This provision only applies to children and therefore it is also important to children who are intersex and whose sex was difficult to determine at birth.

For change of name, the parents or guardian of any child under the age of 21 years may apply in the prescribed form to the Registrar of the Births and Deaths Registration district in which the birth of a child is registered to change the name of the child. We totally agree that this is a very important avenue for children with DSDs conditions/intersex to have their names legally changed when their sex changes.

The  concern  here  is  that  this  law  does not give room to someone who is above twenty-one years of age to change their sex and this is a threat to many intersex people in Uganda. What will happen in case someone has been diagnosed with an intersex condition that needs sex- reassignment but this person is above twenty-one years of age? Policy advocacy is very much needed here such that these laws can be changed in order to favour all children and people in Uganda.

Conclusively, many children and people in Uganda particularly children are still being hidden by their parents with fear of being scorned by the community. In some cases children under go repeated surgeries/ operations and others are taking hormonal treatments without even knowing why this is happening to their lives. This continuous secrecy surrounding intersex means that some people look at this as shameful. They may therefore find it difficult or impossible to talk to others about their condition and as a result may be fearful of forming intimate personal relationships. There is also fear of the way other people would respond if they knew about their intersex condition reason being intersex has been frequently confused with homosexuality in the public imagination.

Unless  people  with  DSDs  come  out  to talk about their lived realities and fight for their rights, violations of their rights and fundamental  concerns  in  all  spheres  of life will not stop as religion, culture and moral  fundamentalisms  have  been  used by sections of societies to reproof intersex people and their existence.


Different stakeholders have different roles to play in the struggle to make sure those children and people in Uganda  with  DSDs  are  treated equally and that their rights are upheld. With Uganda’s population now estimated at 35 million people, the government has to make sure that service delivery all in all sectors and for all people is improved for sustainable development of our country.

To  the  Ministry  of  Health (MoH)

The  government  through  the  Ministry  of Health (MoH) needs to do the following:

a) Set up  a  central  registry  where these children can be registered once born to ease healthcare, social  and  legal  support  later  on in their This should include a policy to enable a gender neutral marker on their birth certificates, to ease change of sex, if necessary, when the child is old enough to be an active participant in this decision.

b) This policy should apply whether children are born  in  hospitals  or at the hands of traditional birth attendants. (Respect for the views of the child (Article 12 of the UN convention  on  the  rights  of  the child: “When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account”)

c) Avail appropriate free  health services – such as counseling services,                        accessibility         of cytogenetic tests   –   particularly hormone  and  chromosomal  tests – and endocrinology services for children and people who may need life-long hormone replacement treatment – should be accessible to all intersex children and people regardless of their gender identities or non-conformity. This will prevent random and best guess surgeries, which have resulted in irreversible and traumatic mutilations of children’s genitals. (UN Convention on the rights of the child, articles 2,

4, 24).

d) The Convention  of  the  Rights  of the Child as the first instrument to incorporate   the   complete   range of     international    human    rights including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights and all aspects of humanitarian law. The convention  on  the  rights  of  the child sets out the rights that must be realized for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. The convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of family and community with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his/her age and stage of development. It should also be noted that the Convention applies to all children, whatever their race, religion or abilities; whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. It doesn’t matter where children live, what language they speak, what their parents do, whether they are boys or girls, what their culture is, whether they have a disability r whether they are rich or poor. Therefore, no child should be treated unfairly on any basis.

e) Improve the  policy  on  antenatal clinic information Parents are currently prepared for the possible birth of an HIV positive child and how to avoid this or to lessen the chances of such a birth through information and tests after birth to determine the status of a child. The MOH should work hand in hand with other actors, such as SIPD Uganda and others to develop information packs  on  the  sex  development and determination of a child born physiologically between male and female. (UN Convention on the rights of the child, articles 3, 16, 17)

f) Incorporate  training     on     sex development disorders manifested either at birth or at puberty in the

medical schools curricula. Children and adolescents born with these variations  have  been  forced  to drop out of school because of the immense stigma and discrimination caused by lack of a policy that protects the rights and mental health of such children in school. The ministry can collaborate with other countries to bring in experts to train Ugandan surgeons and other medical workers to appropriately handle cases from a rights-based approach (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 19 and 23).

g) Strengthen the clinical evaluation system where all   children   are examined clearly after birth to detect  any  form  of  ambiguity  of the children’s genitals. For signs that manifest during puberty and adulthood, equip all health workers with knowledge  and  know-how to appropriately handle cases from a human and health rights based approach. This policy needs to include capacity building programming for traditional birth attendants – who can easily be identified by Village Health Teams (VHTs).  This  is  critical  because over 50% of women in Uganda continue to give birth at the hands of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) despite government’s   efforts   to erase them out of the system.

To parents and caretakers of intersex persons

Parents should always thank God for what He has given them and that the birth of an intersex child should be equally celebrated.

To religious leaders

a) Religious leaders should  start spreading a gospel that isn’t based on discrimination and to inform their masses that God loves us (human beings) same way

b) Use the    different    committees in  parliament  like  Maternal  and child  health  technical  committee, its   committee   on   human   rights such that they can engage with advocates of children and people with DSDs to discuss the way forward and well-being of all these children and people.

To Uganda Parliament

Amend the Ugandan constitution to favour all people including those with DSDs

To the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES)

a) Create environment in all schools (both private and public) in Uganda that can allow children and people with DSDs stay and finish school like any other person

b) Change the school curriculum to include issues to  do  with  DSDs and to add this to the wider SRHR groups at schools

To the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)

The Uganda Human Rights Commission should work together with SIPD and other stakeholders to make sure that the rights of all people born with DSDs in Uganda are upheld and lifted since even the UHRC is constitutionally mandated to promote and protect human rights in the country. The UHRC should study well the policy concept note that was submitted to it by SIPD to see areas of intervention for further discussions. This can be done through reaching out to SIPD and all other stakeholders who refer cases to us/work with us.





























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Advocating the support and advancing the rights of intersex children and people in Uganda.

Location and address for SIPD – UGANDA Naluvule – Wakiso
P.O Box 26608, Kampala – Uganda. Telephone: +256 414 – 274 782


CORSU – Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services of Uganda

HRAPF – Human Rights and Promotion Forum

RLP – Refugee Law Project

SIPD – Support Initiative for People with Congenital Disorders

GBV – Gender Based Violence

IPPF – International Planned Parenthood Federation

SRH – Sexual and Reproductive Health UHSPA – Uganda Science Press Association TBAs – Traditional Birth Attendants
MOH – Ministry of Health

ACME – African Centre for Media Excellence

ABUBEF – Burundi Association for Reproductive Health GMAT – Gender Minority Advocacy Trust – Kenya MARPS – Most At Risk Populations
CFCS – Changing Faces Changing Spaces

UPA – Uganda Pediatric Association

PSG – Parent Support Group

RHU – Reproductive Health Uganda

ICASA – International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa

SOV – School Outreach Visit

Executive summary

This final narrative report contains activities implemented in 2014. The funded projects included documentation for purposes of producing a documentary that would in turn be used for further policy advocacy, capacity building and outreach to create safe spaces in schools and communities for intersex young people.

As indicated in our interim narrative report, much of the first phase of funding for this project cycle went to outreach visits to schools and communities to provide support and to collect information and stories. This was also done in a bid to meet our target of establishing safe spaces in at least one school or higher institution of learning a month within the twelve months of the project cycle. The last month of the project cycle included evaluation of work done, compilation of reports from all project activities and planning for sustaining the achievements made as well as deliberating on solutions for the challenges the team has encountered.

As a result of this support, we have been able to implement the following planned activities – schools outreach, media engagement, and maintain a strong institutional presence in all 25 target districts. Other activities we have been able to conduct with other support include parents support groups, policy advocacy, alliances building, and documentation. Our main focus and goal through all these activities continues to be public education.

A key challenge – as mentioned in our interim report – remains the critical need for improvement in actual service delivery in terms of access to medical care, psychosocial support for young people in schools and those who have been forced to drop out of school because they are intersex. By the beginning of quarter 4 of 2014, we had developed a plan to meet this need and bridge the gap through an apprenticeship skills development program, which will initially focus on practical, marketable, and entrepreneurial skills of brick laying and building, tailoring, carpentry, basic mechanics, welding, and micro-business management.

New Intersex cases 2014

In 2014, SIPD registered 168 new cases from different districts of Uganda. Some of the clients have been registered but SIPD does not currently have specific outreaches in the districts they come from and so cannot refer them to a support group or supportive point person. However, they still receive counseling, and medical referral services according to the needs they present to us. 80% of all the new cases remain children under 18 years.

New Picture (1)





Strategic and Performance Assessment

SIPD has carried out an assessment meeting together with parents and focal point persons from the different communities to ascertain whether we all still have the same understanding of vision and goal as to why the
organization was formed and whether SIPD is still playing an important role in shifting the paradigm around sexual health and rights for intersex children and people in the country.

A photo showing participants in the assessment meeting

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The assessment meeting was so helpful since it enabled SIPD staff, parents and focal point person representatives to re-visit the mission, vision and goal of why SIPD was formed and this helped a lot in keeping all concerned parties on track in the human rights struggle of uplifting the plight and rights of intersex children and people in Uganda. It also revealed that SIPD has a critically important role at this particular time in the country and region to influence the social and political conversations around sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, and gender.

Schools Outreach Visits (SOVs)
New Clients registered with SIPD from schools

There has been no platform for discussion on sex development disorders in schools and this has made many intersex youth to continually be discriminated against, stigmatized, bullied and to finally drop out of schools because of these birth differences. SIPD started a schools outreach programme where teachers, non-teaching staff, and students are equipped with knowledge on Disorders of Sex Development (DSDs)/ Intersex. This aims to augment our efforts of engaging the Ministry of Education and sports and look into policies and programmes in schools that can help intersex children and people stay in school like any other children.

SIPD has to date made initial visits to 11 schools and has mainly engaged with school administration personnel in order to gain trust and plan with them on the best way these student safe spaces can work. These include Kiyeya high school, Sanje Senior Secondary School, Bulanga Parents School, Nwoya High School, Namutumba Senior Secondary School, and Butalejja Secondary, Ntenjeru Parents School, Kyambogo University, and Makerere University among others. Out of these, we have received 60 cases known to school administration of students with sex development irregularities that they did not know how to deal with and only 19 of these have remained in school. Teachers and non- teaching staff indicated that they had lost track of the other students because due to the stigma from fellow students and particularly non-teaching staff, the students did not return to school.

Photographs showing some of the schools outreach activities

New Picture (1)

Our outreach campaign has been greatly supported by the field based point persons. Additional information and knowledge sharing has always been the target of the projects officer. A total of 110 educators in 11 different schools have been engaged
and given more and current information about intersexuality. We continue to receive informal evaluation monthly reports from field point persons and maintain constant telephone contact.




Institutional Capacity support

SIPD has been able to operate successfully with physical offices and been able to pay its committed team of staff as well as meet key operational costs such as transport to communities to trace cases, and network with local allies, maintain the client tracing functions of community based point persons, and engage media. Having moved into safer office premises, we have had the capacity to implement besides schools outreach the following activities:

a) Media campaign and public responses

Our media campaigns have been ongoing though out the year to ensure that we maintain public interest and dialogue. Several of our adult clients have received local support to access healthcare by listeners. For example an intersex person from Rakai district received support to go for surgery and another mother with a child from Mukono got
404,000= which she wanted to take the child for proper medical assessment. Another parent has had both her
intersex child and another disabled child find a benefactor to cater for their medical expenses and school needs. Another listener to our media program funded the surgery for undescended testes for one of our clients in Kiwatule. Another partner provided transport facilitation for four impoverished clients in Rakai to be able to visit a proper healthcare facility and dialogue with a doctor on life threatening conditions they were facing as a result of improper mutilations of their genitals. We continue to receive concerns from callers into our media programs about a key
human rights violation of denying intersex children and adolescents to attend school. Media houses engaged include The New Vision, The Daily Monitor, The Observer and Bukedde. Television and radio appearances have included Radio Pearl, Metro, Ddembe FM, Mama FM, WBS, NBS, and NTV.

A cross section of photos during the follow up outreach activities 2014

b) Parents Outreach and follow up activities

New Picture (1)

We conducted initial visits to 24 new districts and follow up activities to different intersex families in all old districts. The visits are intended for direct support to intersex families and also making sure that children are not subjected to harmful cultural practices in a bid to “normalize” what society thinks is not normal. Hope has been restored to the different families and they felt that someone is part and parcel of the journey that they are walking.


c) Client tracing

The fact remains that there are still many intersex people in Uganda and parents who lack information. Most of them still think its witchcraft and other related superstitions. SIPD has been receiving calls all over Uganda and outside Uganda with reports of intersex cases that require response with either information or referral. For cases in Uganda, SIPD has continued to reach out and provide information and support by either a physical visit or a phone call. For cases outside Uganda, SIPD continues to work with our regional alliances – particularly in the East African region, mainly in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.

d) Psycho-social support

Counseling is proving to be among the most important aspects of our work. The need for this service has been expressed by the different parents over the past three years as trauma has become very hard for them and the intersex individuals to deal with. Medical care in itself does not fully take care of all the social and political implications of being different, and most of our clients require psychosocial support prior to and after medical attention, particularly where sex re-assignment is a possibility. In 2015, we plan to have two fulltime counsellors; one of them will cater for increasing demand among students and the other will serve parents and carers.

e) Regional Alliances building

SIPD has organized two regional meetings – one was a regional consultative meeting that had 22 different representatives from the 5 East African Countries. The meeting discussed how best to form strong advocacy and networking relationship amongst the 5 East African countries with the aim of making the Intersex movement grow and also to increase visibility in other East African countries. Different views were given by participants from the different countries and also member organizations in Uganda had representatives that specifically contributed and discussed issues around intersexuality.

report1In May 2014, SIPD held the first ever regional parents’ meeting in partnership with Transitioning Africa, to brainstorm on how effectively to use the advantage of mothers in decision making positions, such as the speaker of parliament and the first lady. The meeting, which brought together 12 parents of intersex children from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and
Tanzania was a huge success.

Participants decided that their submission should initially be done report2diplomatically and thereafter engagement can start. A couple of ideas were brought up which included but not limited to; recognition of intersex people in different areas, a collective and practical engagement by all parents present – starting to speak politically about this issue in their work places, families, places of worship, village or council meetings, or other spaces in their countries.

It is anticipated that when this is done, there will be a paradigm shift in attitudes and subsequently in policies.report3

Parents agreed and put their signatures on a petition that has now been submitted to the different committees in parliament that are responsible for Maternal and child health care, to the speaker of parliament, and to the first lady. We hope that this will amplify
our advocacy engagements with the Ministry of Health (MoH).




Parents also showed their enthusiasm and willingness to engage if they are called for different engagements and discussions by members of parliament or to meet with the speaker of parliament.

Some of the key recommendations by parents in the meeting included;

 Continued collective and practical engagement with all the different stakeholders in effecting change.

 An increase on the TV and radio appearances (More media interviews and sensitizations)

 More sensitization and training of Doctors (including more posters placed in hospital notice boards and reception/waiting areas). These posters to be shared with parents from the region so they can put them up in their own spaces. Request if there can be some posters in Swahili to ensure they speak to the region at large.

 The need to challenge some laws that affect our constituency – thus the urgency of utilizing the woman speaker of Parliament continuously – through writing to her and keeping the issue “in her face” constantly. Successes in Uganda will set a good precedent for engagement in other East African countries.

 Call for adequate facilities and machines that do appropriate tests of intersex clients.
 More sensitization needs to be done especially in villages.

A submission to the Ugandan parliament was drafted, deliberated on and endorsed. The submission has been made to the speaker of Uganda’s parliament, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, through two relevant parliamentary committees, namely Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development and Committee on Social Services. The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the office of the first lady has also received a copy.

f) National alliances building

SIPD has maintained a strong partnership with service provider allies such as different hospitals and health centers and these included CORSU hospital, Rugarama Hospital in Kabale, Arua National referral hospital, Soroti Health centre II, Kalisizo referral hospital, Mulago, Ntungamo health centre IV among others. Other national alliances include the Ministry of Health (MoH), Uganda Pediatric Association (UPA), CSOs such as Straight talk Uganda, Raising voices, Centre for domestic violence prevention, HRAPF, RLP, and Uganda Health Science and Press Association (UHSPA), Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), Uganda Counselling Association, and Uganda Pediatric Association. Several activities have been done in conjunction with different partners like the awareness project that was organized by the RLP and SIPD was part of these activities and SIPD in conjunction with HRAPF organized a meeting with Intersex people and parents for feedback to be submitted to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) , a dialogue at the CSO fair to discuss the role of the ordinary citizen in protecting minority populations.

HRAPF has helped SIPD in different legal aspects that it needed i.e. A case in Rakai where an intersex family was being chased out of the land, SIPD referred this case to HRAPF and the intersex family managed to access justice. Those who wanted to chase away the family urged that this family was bringing bad omen to the entire family because of the intersex birth that occurred.

Another case was in Mukono where a father was denying support to his child because he was born intersex and the case was referred to HRAPF, who came in, looked for a father together with SIPD and after the different engagements and discussions where even the police was notified, the father has now started to extend help towards the intersex child and the mother. SIPD also continues to actively engage ACME, the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, several churches – mainly branches of the catholic, Pentecostal, and Baptist churches.

Other international partnerships: – Hosting the AJWS Global Justice program

At the beginning of the year, SIPD hosted 18 visitors on an AJWS Global Justice Fellowship program. The group was hosted at the SIPD offices and staff shared extensively with them the strategic approach SIPD uses to do its community engagement and policy advocacy work. The staff team at SIPD also learnt a lot from the group on how similar issues are handled in the USA. Following this visit and engagement with SIPD, one of the participants posted the following write up about her experience and lessons from SIPD:

Photograph showing the AJWS Global Justice Fellowship group outside SIPD’s office







Production of the “Identities in between” Documentary

SIPD has continued to document conversations, interviews, and lived realities in the communities where we do outreach. The documentation strategy provides us with an evidence based premise for advocacy since statistics has been a key question in each and every forum of our engagement. Policy makers, formulators and implementers asked for statistics to enable their planning and we are providing them with huge numbers of real people asking them to plan and act.

In October, the process of fusing, editing, and producing the “Identities in between” documentary was started. We had collected footage from as many communities and schools as possible. Ultimate media was contracted to do the editing and production work. The documentary should be ready for distribution by the end of March 2015.

The projects officer attended the Benetech meeting in Nairobi that was targeting on finding ways on how documentation should be put on a priority list and ways of making it sustainable. The team also participated in another Benetech refresher workshop in October, 2014 in Kampala that focused on documentation of violations and human rights abuses.

g) National Presentations and engagements with health and legal service providers

Healthcare referrals – CORSU, Mulago and Nsambya hospitals

SIPD continues to strengthen the partnership with CORSU hospital and by the close of the year, we had 23 teenagers and young adults access much needed medical procedures at CORSU through our referral system and partner support and many others have started on their hormonal treatments. Many others from previous years have also had their reviews done. We are happy to report that all operations have been a success. We are still holding counseling sessions with the teenager from Kabale and his parents to enable them deal with the social implications of a possible sex re-assignment and to know what his rights are if he chooses to take this route. Over the past months, we have established relationships with more interested doctors based in Mulago and Nsambya hospitals. Two of our client had their surgeries from Nsambya hospital at reduced costs.

World Prematurity, Save the children and Community Integrated Development Initiatives (CIDI)

SIPD participated in a one-day dialogue around improving the survival of babies with proven cost effective approaches to care. This was an opportunity for SIPD to dialogue about new interventions which are cost effective and also take on continued national advocacy to create awareness about intersex infanticide with a view to reducing it.
National Policy Dialogue on Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs)

SIPD participated in a 2-day National Policy Dialogue, whose focus was on understanding better the role of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) at Serena hotel Kampala. The purpose of this dialogue was to come up with a common national position on Traditional Birth Operations in Uganda. Some of the issues we discussed included a) determining the magnitude of unskilled providers on Reproductive, Newborn, Maternal, and Child Health services in Uganda, b) Examining factors within the healthcare environment which are responsible for persistent deliverance under unskilled care, c) Proposing policy and programme action recommendations including how the healthcare system can relate with the various community providers we and other civil society organizations work with, i.e. TBAs, Village Health Teams (VHTs) and other community resource persons. This dialogue was organized by the Ministry of Health (MOH), World Health Organization (WHO) and Uganda National Health Users’/consumers’ organization.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)
SIPD and HRAPF went into a partnership to meet members from EOC and strategize on how the issues concerning intersexuality can be well represented in Uganda right from a community to a national level. The meeting was a success and there is ongoing dialogue around this.

Legal aid

Our partners, HRAPF, intervened in a case where an intersex family was being chased out their land in Rakai because their child was intersex and the village authorities deemed them to be witches and was evicting them from their land. The family was able to remain on the land and follow up on the case is on-going. We have embarked on a name and marker change for a 15 year old client who was raised as a girl and has chosen to live as male. Initial surgical operations, such as descending his testes from his abdomen into the sac have already been done at Nsambya Hospital.

sipd report (2)

Key Development partners that supported the success of SIPD advocacy and outreach work in

2014 included HIVOS, American Jewish World Services, Open Society Foundations, means of transport facilitated by MIVA, Anonymous, and Benetech.




On the 22/04/2013, the Support Initiative for People with congenital Disorders (SIPD) organized the first ever regional consultative meeting on sex development disparities – also known as intersex conditions – in Kampala, Uganda. The meeting brought together participants from all five East African countries in East Africa. This report narrates the conversations, outcomes, and recommendations from the meeting.


The aim of the regional consultative meeting was to provide a pioneer space for regional conversations and comprehensive consultation on intersex health and rights in the East African region. SIPD sought to bring together 20 key healthcare providers, legal practitioners, civil society leaders, government and community representatives, intersex people, parents of intersex children, and human rights activists to engage on how they can provide safe spaces for intersex children and people, as well as parents of intersex children in their respective fields.

The meeting had the following five key aims:

• Facilitate knowledge transfer, technical support, and amplified advocacy voices around health and rights for intersex children and people in East Africa.
• Initiate the creation of a critical mass of intersex allies and stakeholders who are confident in their methodologies and theories in addressing issues surrounding the right to health, choice, life, and dignity for intersex children and people in the region; and who appreciate and target the role that class, ethnicity, culture, education and religion play in fueling marginalization of this population.

• Upscale the support and advocacy networks for intersex health and rights in East Africa
• Document and disseminate best practices in Intersex interventions with a regional focus.
• Increase the profile of grassroots national responses to Intersex issues of
concern in an East African regional space.


The meeting started with the introductions of all present members, we had representatives from Kenya (GMAT F) in Kenya, Human Development Initiative (HDI) in Rwanda, ABUBEF in Burundi (ABUBEF), FOCUS Tanzania, Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP) and a media representative, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), Refugee Law Project (RLP), Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), STRAIGHT TALK, RAISING VOICES, Uganda Health and Press Association (UHSPA), MARPI and the School of Public Health from Mulago hospital in Uganda, four(4)intersex youth, and three (2) parents of intersex children.

The Executive Director of SIPD-Uganda welcomed the participants and gave a background to the meeting. His prelude included clarifying definitions – “intersex” versus ‘hermaphrodite”. He further explained why SIPD had chosen the particular participants present for this pioneer regional meeting and what expectations SIPD and the intersex clients in the entire region have of the institutions represented at the meeting. In his opening remarks, he
explained intersex as an ambiguity in sex development. This is normally at the genital level and can be seen at birth however, for some people it may show much later in life as one grows as it is at the chromosome or hormonal level. Intersexuality is a minority issue which was and still is not recognized as such by most people in our regions , but most children who are born intersex are killed, their parents especially the mothers are subjected to domestic violence by the husbands and in-laws. With increased community outreach however, many parents, particularly mothers are staring to speak out and to seek safe spaces where they can ‘grow” safe solutions to the health and social needs of their children as well as their own without losing a livelihood.

Therefore, SIPD, with the support of its development partners decided to break the silence by addressing this with the parents and other community custodians, lawyers, reproductive health practitioners, counselors, government (esp., the Ministry of health, Ministry of education, Ministry of gender, labor and social development, the Uganda Human Rights Commission) and the police to see that the intersex people are recognized, and their health and rights acknowledged. The biggest problem we are facing is the lack of psychosocial support and actual health services to the clients. Intersex is a new subject in terms of programming which therefore needs to be prioritized, the most affected people are the mothers yet they are the most secretive hence making it hard to assist these children who are entirely in their hands. There is need to share experiences and get solutions to this pressing issue, need to build a critical voice to address this because many milestones are not addressed to the expecting mothers, the children in schools who are also affected, the teachers and caretakers of these children and many mutilations that are based on best guess surgery have turned out sour, and many difficulties are faced at a later stage when, for example, it is necessary for someone to change their names or sex. Our aim in convening this regional consultative meeting was to find ways in which we can upscale our networking and alliance building across borders and create more safe spaces closer to the intersex East Africans who badly need these spaces.


 Discussions of the relationship between the intersex people and their parents (Do they face any form of rejection)

 Discussing differences around sexuality and sexual orientations as opposed to sex development
 How much knowledge do people have about intersexuality and policy matters
 Apply the learnt knowledge back home in their own regions
 Expect to get a clear understanding of intersexuality to the rest of the region
 How to present intersexuality so that it is not looked at as homosexuality
 Looking at ways which intersex can be disengaged from the LGBT
 Expect to get clarity from doctors about what exactly happens to bring about this disorder
 Having a national policy, a registry and a clinic that follows up on
these issues
 Learn about the issues affecting intersex children
 Broaden or include intersexuality into pediatric system/clinic and then child health care

1.2 The meeting examined the pros and cons of including the I (Intersex) in
LGBTI community in regard to organizing

Deliberations revealed that “intersex” as a collection of anatomical conditions, was shrouded in silence and even though the founder of intersex rights organizing in the region found some engagement spaces within the LGBT community, it was important to note that this lack of autonomous attention has made intersex children and people just another letter within LGBTI organizing but has not achieved the space that was anticipated to cater to the needs of this constituency. One of the thoughts from the meeting was the need to find ways to engage on intersex issues separately from – albeit in ally ship with partners from – the wider LGBT and other minority groups ones such as people with disabilities, children at risk, and survivors of torture etc. and be able to articulate the urgent gaps and needs that must be addressed. Intersex people lived in denial and found it really hard to come out and say that they are intersex and therefore the best they could do was to hide under the umbrella of the LGBT family seeking acceptance and recognition.
The other reason identified was the need to access funds to be able to organize since almost all funders available at the time had LGBT constituencies as their only target of interest.

1.3 The meeting identified the following rights of the child that activism and organizing around sex development irregularities targets to address:

 Right to life
 Right to education (most children drop out of schools once they feel that they are not as normal as the other children in school and this is shouldn’t be the case)
 Should have a sense of belonging
 Should not be discriminated against and neither should they be stigmatized
 Right to informed choices regarding surgical body modifications
 Most children are raped out of curiosity about their behavior in the environment
 Others are used in witchcraft and some are even sacrificed

Rights of the adult with sex development irregularities

 Right to appropriate healthcare and information
 Right to a socially and economically productive life
 Right to found a family, regardless of whether the individual can
or cannot “consummate” a union in the traditional sense.
 Right to access legal support in changing best guess sex assignments at birth whenever the individual is able
 Right to appropriate sexual and reproductive health services and information, including appropriate support for resultant disabilities.
 Right to safe social spaces to share experiences, build community, and draw support



2.1.1 Health/Medical explanation of intersexuality

Dr. Kiggundu from Mulago hospital took participants through a scientific and clinical journey of how intersexuality occurs and what kind of medical and health issues are typically bound to occur, and how fathers are and should be considered a key part in determining the intersex child’s anatomy. The biological explanation being that only males give off the Y chromosome, which is the sex determinant and has a sex determination gene; and in the absence of which, there is likely to be a disorder in sex development.

Lessons and recommendations from the presentation: Most disorders are not life threatening because they don’t normally affect the enzymes necessary for growth. It is only those that affect the enzymes that are dangerous and children may not live for more than 72 hours. However, he recommends continued follow up of children and families for at least ten years before any surgical conversations are held.

Children should be in position to decide what sex they should be according to how they feel at a later stage in life and not have their bodies mutilated without their consent which may yield sour results later on in life and yet it is irreversible at the time. Only when it is critical and advised by a doctor should it be done at to save the life of the child. The various medical treatments available in Kenya, which is part of the region, include cosmetic surgeries, hormone replacement treatment, chromosomal and other cytogenetic tests and in Uganda, only hormonal and imaging tests can be accessed.

He also addressed some of the following participants concerns:

 Can one be intersex and not know?
 Is intersex a subset of Hermaphrodites?
 Does the clitoris erect to resemble a small penis in an intersex case?
 At what stages beyond infancy is one likely to detect these sex development disorders?
 Does it have a direct bearing on gender inclination


2.2.1 Intersexuality and Domestic Violence
Ms. Diana led the participants in a discussion that defined violence, i.e. as any action or inaction that may cause or endanger someone’s life and how violence is bound to be a daily reality for intersex children, mother of these children and intersex people in schools and in the workplace. Much of this violence takes the form of psychological and physical abuse. Examples from the conversations included the following:

 Ridicule
 Fear
 Verbal abuse
 Economic abuse
 Physical abuse (Kicks, slaps)
 Discrimination and isolation
 Lack of confidence by parents
 Rejection and neglect of child by parents, of mother by father and in- laws
 Sexual abuse (curiosity and blackmail rape)

Note: Some domestic violence is as a result of infertility in a home (and is always assumed to be the woman’s problem) which in most cases may be caused by disorders of sex development and the victim may not even be aware of this.

2.2.2 Recommended interventions

 Relocation especially to deal with depression and suicidal tendencies
 Wholesome counseling which should be done regularly
 Parents must have confidence in their children and love them above anything else
 Policy advocacy at the national and regional legislative levels
 Revision of the science syllabus especially in primary schools and in medical schools
 Create safe spaces/homes for the intersex children and people
 Service providers should provide services to all and not discriminate against the intersex
 More sensitization and understanding of the term intersex to eliminate the initial term-hermaphrodite and probably adopt the use

of a more health and reproductive term so that Intersex is not continually hidden and looked at through the lens of homosexuality
 The “I” should be excluded from the LGBTI family in terms of organizing and autonomously address its issues.
 Create a comfortable space for people to come out and speak
 The CSO should get direct representatives from the Intersex community


2.3.1 Intersexuality and Rights

HRAPF provides free legal aid services to everyone including the LGBTI community. She explained to participants the current limitations within Ugandan laws. For example, the Ugandan law books don’t define intersex and everyone at birth is regarded as children, there is no differentiation and these children have rights such as;

 Right to stay with their parents
 Right to education
 Protection from discrimination
 Right to proper nutrition
 Right to proper and adequate health

Therefore, intersex children should have equal right opportunities as every other child in the country. The law provides for change of sex and change of name however it should all be done before one turns 21 years of age.

The law is further abused by parents and doctors who do corrective surgery when the children are still young and cannot decide for themselves but at times we don’t blame them because doesn’t let them decide after they make
21 years hence we should join together to pass and oppose this law.



There was an intersex who was fed up of being in hiding and wanted to be legally recognized which he did but this led to so much friction in the country
as the stand continued to be that God had only created man and woman and no one else in between therefore there was no such thing as Intersex. His rights were so much violated that he didn’t even go to school, didn’t have a birth certificate therefore he had no identification at all and this made life very difficult for him as he felt left out and rejected.

Accept the intersex and they will come out to address this issue and seek medical assistance as well and then also there should be provision of a 3rd gender that caters for those born intersex.


Rwanda is very silent on the issue of intersex and as a matter of fact it is almost unheard of and there is completely no organization that is dealing with this meaning that the intersex people who are there are suffering silently. The CSO is creating a health and rights segment which will be advocating for the intersex and then there will be training of lawyers, TBAs, Doctors, and parents about intersex. Rwanda reps requested for continued collaboration, especially in terms of sharing educational information and materials, which they can customize and translate to their own languages to start engaging on this issue.


Health services are provided by other organizations but ABUBEF is a member of IPPF and there is no data base about intersex people and children in general although they know that these cases exist. The only current interventions and standard treatments include silence and at best when hospitals or healthy centers receive an intersex person, the only thing that could be provided corrective surgery, most of which is not preceded by any lab or imaging tests whatsoever.

Many associations have not prioritized intersex health and rights mainly due to the social silence around it and partly due to misunderstanding it to be a sub –set of homosexuality, such that people with infertility and other sexual development issues would rather identify themselves with disability interventions. This has pushed this conversation to the back of public

dialogue even though there are several initiatives to promote health and rights in Burundi. Therefore, no specific documentation of cases has been done


The message received from FOCUS Tanzania is that they have been privately attending to parents who report intersex traits in their children but have only provided counseling due to lack of other facilities or knowledge. After initial visits, the parents would not return to the hospital but rather seek the services of traditional medicine men and women. No documentation of cases has been done.


We screened “MY SECRET LIFE” a SIPD documentary of Ugandan intersex lived realities and stories by intersex people, medical practitioners, parents, and community workers. The documentary had a clear message on what the critical needs and issues for intersex people in Uganda are, as well as recommendations on what interventions they would like to have available.


 There should be more sensitization of stakeholders and health practitioners
 Sensitize the local government and ministries
 Documentation and follow up at all hospitals and the TBAs should also do some kind of documentation
 Awareness creation and inclusion of the ministry of Education, ministry of gender, labor and social development
 Media inclusion, production of more IEC materials, doctors should also engage in parent education and awareness that there is a possibility of having a child who may neither be male or female
 Advocacy should be taken at a higher level for example law makers, parliamentarians,
 Involve other open minded organizations that are ready to work with us
 Get key messages to publish and these should be repackaged. The use
of the term “intersex” poses interpretation challenges and diverts the
issues we are trying to address to a homosexuality conversation. It was recommended that since there are many other spaces where same sex rights are addressed, the health and rights issues of children and people with sex development disparities should be de-linked to give this constituency a chance to access appropriate support systems.
 Be clear on our referrals for instance; know where to go for surgeries, psychosocial support, tests and so on
 Identify potential partners and allies for advocacy
 Improve our referral system and share this information with participants
 Share the policy concept note submitted to the Ministry of Health and the Uganda Human Rights Commission with participants so they can identify how to contribute their voices and experiences to the cause.
 Need for our own clinic to attend to this just like other issues have their own like TASO for HIV, the cancer institute, Pediatric clinic, and Most at Risk Populations, Mental Health victims etc. in order to accurately document and customize health information and services.
 Initiate a regional coalition working to promote to sexual and reproductive health and rights of intersex children and people.


 National council for children
 Action AID
 Teenage centers
 Family protection unit of the police
 Advertisement houses – bill board regulators
 Initiate a Facebook page and a regional list serve to continue sharing information and referrals
 Donors and embassies*
 Write something about Intersex on important days for instance the
World Population Day, Day of the African Child, etc
 Referral directory*
 SIPD should do a more comprehensive situational analysis in Uganda to back up the pilot policy reform advocacy actions that have been started.


 A louder voice and breakage from LGBT is needed- (Uganda) It has given a green light to other regions (countries) and some kind of commitment to start considering intersex critically- (Rwanda)
 Share documentation on intersex- (Burundi, Tanzania)
 We should have a dedicated clinic for practical research – (Uganda, Kenya, Burundi)
 Repackage the messages and terminologies that we have to replace “intersex” with a more plain description of the actual sex development issue being addressed – ( Uganda)
 Special focus should be put on the feasibility of marriage between
the “I” and the wider “LGBT”organizing.-(Uganda)
 If messages could also be put in local languages-(Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania)
 More research should be made around the subject-(All participants).
 Was a very crucial meeting and they are ready to render any kind of assistance to SIPD anytime they are approached-(Uganda)


The meeting came to a conclusion after the evaluations were done and generally it was a success as we managed to achieve the set goals for this meeting, which were, coming together as a collective regional voice to consult on how best we can achieve effective organizing for the health and rights of intersex children and people in the East African region and how to amplify these issues and place them on public discourse agendas in the region. The 1 pager communique being formulated is a working document that highlights the need, the objective of the meeting, the countries represented and the recommendations that these representatives put forward as next steps.


GMAT F-Gender Minority Advocacy Trust Fund (Kenya)

ABUBEFU- Association Burundaise Pour Lebien etre Familial (Burundi)

MARPI-Most At Risk Population Initiative

IDI-Infectious Disease Institute

RLP-Refugee Law Project

CEDOVIP-Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention HRAPF-Human Rights and Awareness Promotion Forum HDI-Health Development Initiative (Rwanda)
RHU – Reproductive Health Uganda

IPPF – International Planned Parenthood Federation

LGBTI – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex
A cross section of photos from the meeting

New Picture (1)New Picture (3)