Unsafe in Somalia, Unwanted in Kakuma, Unwelcome in Nairobi: The Nightmares of Intersex Children Refugees

[sbs_blog_stats]The sound of gunshots and blasts of bombs ring the air. A house burns here, a village scatters there. A woman clutches her child to her breast and runs, but the hem of her bui-bui catches flame. She puts it out with a repeated slap of the hand. But she cannot put out the fire that burns her life down. So she runs. Somalia is not safe. She decides to run to Kenya like everyone else.

My name Brian*, my parents are refugees. I am a 5 years old intersex child. I should be in kindergarten, learning letters and numbers, but I am not. I should be attending madrassa, to learn about my religion, but I do not. I miss school and madrassa. Everyone says I am sick. I cannot control my urine, so my parents wrap me in adult diapers.

On 15th September 2020, my parents took me to Nairobi. The doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital said I have Congenital Posterior Urethral Valves and that I should go to India for special treatment. However, there is no money. My parents cannot raise money for our daily sustenance let alone the travel and medical expenses to go to India.

My friends at school and madrassa bully me, saying that I am not a boy because my genitals are not similar to those of other boys. My parents tried to explain that I am an intersex child, that there is nothing wrong with me. But my friends refuse to play with me; sometimes they bully and beat me. When I fought back I was suspended from school. Back in the camp, my mother often got entangled in fights with neighbors because they considered me an abomination. I pity my parents because they are struggling with more than my condition.

My father is yet to receive his Refugee Identity Card. He says he applied for it and attended an interview (Refugee Status Determination Interview) in 2020. My mother who got her ID, says it should take six months after the interview to receive a decision. One year later, my father is yet to receive his decision. But the police do not understand, they say his documents are fake. They want to take my father away from us. He was told to call the UNHCR toll-free number, but it never works.

Have you met my friend Martin*? Like me, he is an intersex child whose mother is a refugee from Somali. His mother was also stigmatized at Kakuma because Ismail is intersex. Consequently, they fled Kakuma for Nairobi where the authorities let her stay temporarily. His mother does not have a Refugee Identity Card. Like my father, she only has proof of registration. Worse her document states that she should be in Kakuma.

Martin*, like me, is sick. He also wears diapers and experiences abdominal pains. When his mother took him to Mama Lucy Hospital, she was turned away and told that she should seek healthcare services at Kakuma where her document places her. She cannot go back to Kakuma because of the discrimination. She cannot access services in Nairobi because she is deemed a Kakuma runaway. She wants to change her document but is frustrated by the system.

Unfortunately, this is our reality!!!

Author: Ian Nyboma
LL.B Hons (Moi) | PGD (KSL)

20 thoughts on “Unsafe in Somalia, Unwanted in Kakuma, Unwelcome in Nairobi: The Nightmares of Intersex Children Refugees”

  1. The write up sparks a conversation. There is power where the plight of a vulnerable group is inscribed through writing. Awareness is created. Conversations inform policy because the concerns raised in the article reminds the state that they have an obligation to enforce positive rights. Thank you Ian. Mine is to reverberate the same in this diverse global village.

    1. Thank you Michael, for continuing the conversation. The refugees themselves have these conversations in their camps. But none of it impacts outside their tents. Those who get a chance to express themselves find unfriendly audience in law enforcement officers and registration personnel. As you rightly point out, the State has its duty. Similarly, the society is charged with an unemphasised duty to embrace more diversity. It is up to you and me to speak for Brian (above) and his kind, and Amka Africa is leading the way.

  2. This is amazing writing. It’s sad how deplorable the conditions refugees live in and to top that, the inhumanity and cruelty that is metted upon them, adult or child, during the refugee status application & determination process by RAS and their officers. Children are a vulnerable group & should be accorded special protection.

    1. Thank you for the compliment, Hawa. I agree with you that we need a better attitude regarding refugees. Amka Africa is working hard to effect change at policy and procedural levels, and views like yours are useful to the cause.

  3. An article that paints a picture of societal inequalities. It brings out the fact that we don’t have equal obstacles to overcome. Some are more disdavantaged than others. Yet have to compete with everyone else for the limited opportunities available.

  4. Sad. One wonders, when are internationally recognized principles such as the best interest of the child ever considered?

    1. Thank you Evelyn. The understanding should be that refugees, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or nationality, should be treated well by the law and society. Your observation is unique. Regard for the best interests of a child is a peremptory value. The police, government departments, and all of us should allow refugee children to benefit from such values.

  5. Illuminating the plight suffered by children of intersex gender is very thoughful Mr. Ian. In as much as their experience is nasty it is everyone’s hope that the relevant governing bodies do formulate policies capable of implementation safeguarding the right to human dignity for the subject children.

  6. This takes me back to Primary we had a boy who was intersex.The stigma the bullying from the boys was real.He chose to play with girls.Fortunately for him he got the operation.This is a conversation that should happen more often and louder.People need to be educated and pulled out of their ignorance.Policies have to be formulated to protect the intersex children and accord them the same rights if not more as other children.Money has to be set aside to help those who cannot afford the operation but most importantly let us all be kind to these beautiful children.Good job Ian for starting this conversation.

    1. Amina, the story of your schoolmate and those of Martin and Brian above are just samples of many others. Your interaction with that intersex child gives you the advantage of information. Unfortunately, those with the official mandate to legislate, make policy, and allocate resources are less informed on this matters. Amka Africa, being keen to sensitize everyone, is grateful to find a like mind in you. Those children deserve more.

  7. An immaculately written piece on the plight of refugees not only in Northern Kenya(Kakuma,Turkana)but also globally.
    The episode in this narration by Ian Nyboma on the systemic stigma meted out to the intersex individuals, should provide awakening call for all institutions, including refugees agencies for instance Amka Africa mandates with mandates to deploy a right-based approach to sensitize members of the public,state organs, corporations, state actors and non-state actors and everyone the needs to respect those who have been created differently from us, as part of the human race family.

  8. An immaculately written piece on the plight of refugees not only in Northern Kenya(Kakuma,Turkana)but also globally.
    The episode in this narration by Ian Nyboma on the systemic stigma meted out to the intersex individuals, should provide awakening call for all institutions, including refugees agencies for instance Amka Africa with clear mandates to deploy a right-based approach to sensitize members of the public,state organs, corporations, state actors and non-state actors and everyone the need to respect those who have been created differently from us, as part of the human race family.

    1. Asante, Emmanuel. Amka’s efforts to sensitize institutions and individuals are visibly tremendous. But it is considered views such as yours that ultimately inform opinion. As human rights enthusiasts, Amka Africa agrees with you that a rights-based approach will bring the most yield to the cause.

  9. This is our sad reality ,not only in Kenya but globally😭😭
    This is the kind of conversations that when taken seriously will change the lives of so many.
    Well articulated Ian.I am so sad and angry that such things keep happening

    1. It is a global problem. But it is more acute here because the policies have not been customized and attitudes remain unchanged. For intersex persons in Kenya, it is a win merely when they benefit from an understanding like your own

  10. The fact that Daadad is almost and urban refugee camp just being in the outskirts of Lodwar ,they still face challenges because the government has for a long time refused to improve the road networks.. Ensure a constant supply of the medical equipments and the medical staff and most importantly find the right persons who can easily relate and communicate to the people avoiding the issues of language barrier………it’s sad to think of their lack of proper Access to medical services but even more painful thinking of their mental wellness.

  11. Sustainability has a social pillar that universal human rights and basic necessities are attainable by all people.
    This article advocates for human rights of intersex children. There is currently limited information on overall well-being of people with intersex traits.
    Health disparities among intersex people are driven by stigmatization and discrimination.
    Thank you Ian for having this discussion .

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