Gays caution against govt’s genital surgery programme

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

GAY rights groups have warned against government intentions to perform genitalia surgery on those born with ambiguous sex saying this could be a violation of one’s bodily freedom.

The intended surgery for intersex people will take place at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo.

The government health facility has since initiated a register for people with ambiguous genitalia ostensibly to help them deal with the matter as well as avoid future psycho-social problems they may encounter regarding sexuality.

Ambiguous genitalia is a rare condition in which an infant’s external genitals do not appear to be clearly either male or female at birth.

In a baby with ambiguous genitalia, the genitals may be incompletely developed or the baby may have characteristics of both sexes.

This has however not been welcomed by the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) and Trans and Intersex Rising Zimbabwe (TIRZ) groups.

“Children too young to express their gender identity may be surgically assigned the wrong sex, and most of these surgeries happen when people are children. They do not have capacity or understanding to give consent,” GALZ director Chester Samba told

“This is against best human rights practices of allowing individuals to have bodily autonomy and to not be subjected to any coercion or pressure to alter their bodies without comprehensive knowledge of medical and psycho-social implications.”

Samba said it was clear through government communication that some Zimbabwean health care providers used 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,” Samba said.

“The practice of treating intersex traits as birth defects or disorders, reinforces the belief that intersex people need to be ‘fixed’.

“Many intersex people, including children too young to understand or consent to unnecessary medical interventions, have been traumatised by their experiences in medical settings.

“These experiences may include surgical removal of reproductive organs, alteration of external and internal genitalia, and subjection to prepubescent hormonal therapy to force their bodies to develop in certain, expected ways.”