Intersex is a condition where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries). The older term for this condition is hermaphroditism.
Many intersex people find the term “hermaphrodite” insulting and an inaccurate description of intersex bodies. And although many health care providers use the label “disorders of sex development” to describe intersex traits, the term unnecessarily suggests that intersex traits and bodies are unhealthy or defective, contributing to intersex stigma.
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics—such as chromosomes, genitalia, reproductive anatomy, and hormones—that do not fit into typical binary categories of either male or female.
Intersex traits are a naturally occurring variation in humans. Some intersex traits are visible, others are not. Some are apparent at birth, while others become apparent during puberty or later in life—or are never discovered at all. People are born intersex about as often as they’re born with red hair or as twins.
Being intersex is different from being transgender. Intersex people can have any gender identity, and also any sexual orientation.
Intersex people often experience prejudice and discrimination because their bodies do not conform to other people’s expectations about sex and gender.
Other discriminatory treatment faced by intersex people includes infanticide, abandonment, mutilation, and neglect, as well as broader concerns regarding the right to life. Intersex people face discrimination in education, employment, healthcare, sport, with an impact on mental and physical health, and on poverty levels, including as a result of harmful medical practices.
United Nations, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Council of Europe, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and other human rights institutions, have called for countries to ban discrimination and combat stigma.
Few countries so far protect intersex people from discrimination. (Source: Wikipedia)
It is a fact that every person living in the world is considered a human no matter male or female, on the basis of which every person qualifies to enjoy all the human rights such as the right to live, education, respect, etc.
In Nigerian society, people have the mindset that a human can either be male or female and there cannot be a human of any other sex. But the reality is completely different; there is also another sex in the world which is known as intersex or the third sex.
According to Androutsos (2006), hermaphrodites are those people who contain both sex organs i.e. of male and female in the same body. (p.214). It is a bitter reality that being third sex humans, intersex people are facing countless challenges in order to survive and be considered as humans.
The major cause of their problems is that in Nigeria, people do not even believe that there can be a person who has third sex, on the account of which intersex people are not even considered as human.
When hermaphrodites are not even considered as human, they are not provided with most rights. Although, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2007), Article 2 “Every single human being is entitled to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or another status”. (p.2).
There are so many fundamental rights from which hermaphrodites of Nigeria are restricted. Still they are not socially accepted. They are also deprived of getting education due to social stigmatization.
Hermaphrodites encounter a number of troubles in terms of earning as they are illiterate and are communally not accepted; therefore they do not get any proper employment.
However, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2007) in Article 23 says that every individual has a right to work, regardless of their sexual orientation. (p.8).
Intersex also comes across strong humiliation very frequently; people make fun of them and degrade them and violate their right to respect.
Furthermore, there are very few numbers of hospitals and clinics present that offer medical and health care facilities to hermaphrodites without any discrimination which makes them dispossessed with the basic health care facilities.
As an impact of continuously receiving and facing the above mention cruel behavior from society starting from childhood, most of the hermaphrodites decide to get into the immoral ways of living and earning.
For instance, as they do not get any respectful way of earning due to their sexual orientation and illiteracy, they choose prostitution as their profession, they sell sex to generate income. From the broader perspective, prostitution itself has so many harmful and perilous consequences in the society like transmission of STIs and STDs in population.
Moreover, as hermaphrodites are considered bizarre due to their sexual orientation, appearance, dressing as well as their behavior, they often become victims of verbal, sexual and physical abuse by people.
These constant unkind and rebuttal behaviors from people as well as no ways of getting respect, no means of deferential earning and living, and incessant fights with their own family and people sometimes becomes the reason behind their bad and revengeful conduct towards society. In this way, not only hermaphrodites suffer but also the people around them suffer.
It’s a kind of a vicious cycle of hurting and destroying the essence of humanity. The pain of this type of living is that much intense that they actually celebrate the death even of their fellows because they believe death is a gift from the almighty God, and meeting with death will end their struggles and hardships on this earth.
As to resolve these problems, it is essential to work on the provision of basic human rights to hermaphrodites in the form of presentation of bills on federal and national levels in Nigeria. This is also recommended to start a campaign to change the irrational attitude and behavior of people towards hermaphrodites with the help of media and on-going awareness sessions, etc.
In all the private and public sectors there should be a reservation of some % of seats for employments and education for hermaphrodites. Furthermore, all the stakeholders including religious and community leaders can perform their part by correcting the misconceptions and misinterpretations people hold related to hermaphrodites. (Source: JPMS Medical Blogs)
Highlighting the dangers of stigmatizing hermaphrodites in the society, a professor of psychology, Oni Fagboungbe, told Saturday PUNCH that without attitudinal change by people around, many in this category could take to deviant acts including ending their own lives.
He said a mass education of the public was needed to change the perception of people about hermaphrodites.
“Hermaphroditism is a physiological abnormality that does not make anybody a lesser human. It is a situation where the two sex organs started developing together but one later developed more than the other. So, subjecting persons with this condition to all manner of abuses is not needed as it could cause serious trauma for them, including resulting in unapproved behaviors.
“The situation is worse in our society because of superstition and other cultural beliefs people hold on to. Some even believe that the condition is contagious, so they isolate hermaphrodites around them as much as possible. This is wrong. It is just a medical condition that can be corrected.
“As a result of this type of treatment, people in this category feel that once they speak up about this problem, they ’ll be labelled a witch or someone under spiritual attack.
“The way out, therefore, is for us to embark on massive education of people for them to change their attitude and know that hermaphrodites are normal people who should be loved and not discriminated against, ” he said.