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Gender based violence experienced by transgender and intersex people in a South African context PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 08 May 2007

ILGA LogoWhen we speak of gender based violence in a South African context, we usually refer to all types of prejudice experienced by women, lesbians, effimanate men or any person who is confronted violently by mainstream society's perception of gender and sexual orientation. Within this sphere we are usually not thinking outside of that box, even as LGBTI sector.

We need to also discuss a very silenced part of “our movement” and that is the transgender and intersex people who are part of our constituencies.

First of all I want us to acknowledge the fact that it is very difficult to speak about transphobia, transprejudice and (I am not sure of correct usage of terms) intersex-phobia if the word transgender is not in general usage in most African countries. If people didn’t embrace the term, claim it or has knowledge about it – how can prejudice and phobia related to transgender and intersex people be reported?  When A was arrested and jailed in so many countries in East Africa, the charges against her were usually related to the penal code, sodomy laws and homosexuality.

Some examples reported to Gender DynamiX in the last year, by a number of transgender and intersex people, include: 

  • Chantelle Hunt’s house was burnt down and later her business was fire bombed. She believes that her ex–wife and her family were responsible.  Her ex’s lover also attacked her with a pick handle, all because she is trans.
  • SAPD officers assaulted L in a police station because she is intersex. She didn’t want to report the case; in fact she did not even want counseling.  She just wanted with it in her own way.
  • B’s ex’s family beat her up because she is trans. She was left with bruises, two broken ribs and maybe permanent damage to her eyesight.
  • Q was jailed and harassed, assaulted, received physical punishment in 5 African countries because she identify as a transvestite. Eventually she flew for her life and applied for refugee status in SA. With the assistance of GDX she succeeded.
  • K’s house and personal belongings were raided in Uganda because of che’s queer identification.
  • Her dad and other family members repeatedly raped R because she didn’t conform to her expected male role – since childhood. She was even forced to perform sexual acts with a dog – to “teach” her a lesson.
  • V was many times bashed, assaulted and experienced all forms of violence due to the fact that people can’t accept a masculine appearing female bodied person.

These above incidents experienced by transgender and intersex people represent only the cases that came to our knowledge, from people who embrace the terminology and know about Gender DynamiX.

When we speak about gender based violence it is also important to note that when we perform “forced” surgery on an intersex infant or young child, who obviously can’t make an informed decision and give consent – we commit gender based violence! This strong desire to always perform surgery on intersex babies comes from this notion that we as adults want to fix, what we cannot accept. Society’s pressure to make people conform and fit in with what we perceive as normal can cause a great deal of pain to intersex people.  This is relevant also in terms of how society understands bodies and genitals as being normal, in terms of gender and future sexuality, in the case of intersex infants. This forced surgery can have impacts in terms of ability to enjoy sexual intimacy, Gender Dysphoria later on in life, and botched surgeries.   Intersex activists are interested in spreading the message that if genital surgery for intersex infants is not necessary for the preservation of life, is tantamount to gender based violence.


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