Intersex Persons’ Rights Seminar [23rd Oct 2017]

October 24, 2017

The term intersex refers to a variety of anatomical conditions where a person  is born with genitalia or sexual anatomy that does adhere to the typical definitions of female or male. The lack of jurisprudence on rights of such intersex persons has been a key concern in the discourse on gender and sexuality laws and the legal framework governing sexual minorities in India. The Centre for Law & Policy Research engages in extensive research and strategic impact litigation as well as policy reform in the domain of gender and sexuality laws. On 23.10.2017, the National institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in collaboration with Solidarity foundation had organised one day seminar on  the Rights of Intersex Persons and the same was attended by the Centre for Law & Policy Research.


The session witnessed personal accounts of individuals  from Nepal and India focusing on the life challenges faced by them. Their narratives brought to light the ground realities of the social constraints and stigma attached to intersex persons, including the lack of support from society and family as well as the pathologisation of the gender difference leading to further ostracisation and denial of employment opportunities. The lack of awareness and the unaffordable medical facilities were also highlighted.


Healthcare professionals like Dr. Shekhar Seshadari, activists like Amrita Sarkar also discussed their experiences of working with intersex persons and their rights. Their focus was on overlaps in Transpersons’ and Intersex Persons to bring out the distinctions between the two. While intersex is a medical condition with which one is born, something which exists even at prenatal stage, the term transgender is used when at a certain point in life a person feels he/she does not associate with the gender he/she was assigned at birth. The tendency to club the two separate groups under the transgender category has led to intersex persons being handed over to the hijra communities by their families. An issue that stood out was the question whether the birth certificates of intersex person must have the gender declaration as a mandatory requirement persons, owing to the legal hurdles of amending the same at a later stage.

The legal and policy loopholes and challenges that one would hypothetically encounter in the process of implementing a comprehensive rights framework for the sexual minorities was also analysed by a panel of Shubha Chacko, Siddharth Narain, Delfina, and Neeraja Sajan.  The discussion touched upon the lack of a well – defined vocabulary, which would be imperative to addressing the issue in a manner so as to engender social change. This is important due the superstitious predilections of rural individuals. The lacunae within the classification of persons under the Kerala Transgender Policy and the Supreme Court in the NALSA Judgment  was discussed, identifying that the limiting factor happens to be the broad group classification of all differently-abled (sexually) individuals as members of the transgender community. The drawback of such an approach is that it seeks to marginalize the specific needs of these unambiguously, distinct communities. Furthermore, the panel highlighted three issues: firstly, the problem of the label, ‘disorder’ and its pejorative implications. Secondly, concern was expressed regarding the male/female binary in sports, as in the cases of Pinky Pramani (India) and Caster Semenya, (South Africa). Further emphasis was laid on the need to bring the discourse on intersex persons within the broader discussion of the Child Rights paradigm and doctrine of qualified and persistent informed consent on questions of gender identity.

While the seminar was geared around educating the audience about the complications faced by an intersex person, the spirited debates among the speakers and the lively exchanges between the panelists and the audience illuminated the very integral nature of gender identification to a person’s sense of well-being and society’s role in creating an environment that engendered a sense of belonging for people of various identities.