almasryalyoum: Beneath the galabiya: Intersex operations in Assiut

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IN the realm of sexual taboos in Egypt, the issue of “intersex individuals” – or those born with “ambiguous genitalia” – is certainly somewhere near the top of the list. While medical professionals take an impartial approach to treatment and surgical operations, social and cultural factors pose a challenge for affected individuals and their families.

In Assiut, Upper Egypt’s largest city, where the local culture is among Egypt’s most conservative, various factors – from inbreeding to a lack of knowledge among pregnant women – have led to a disproportionately large number of cases of intersex children. …

“In Upper Egypt, the family denies and often keeps secret that their children have this problem, since the condition is seen as shameful. They fear he or she will be a homosexual,” explains a senior official at the Assiut Department of Health. “But from a human and medical standpoint, these individuals are just patients. Unfortunately, this is not yet readily accepted by society.” …

True hermaphroditism is an extremely rare condition in which individuals are born with both male and female reproductive organs, embodying both XX (female) and XY (male) chromosomes. Medical professionals study the chromosomes and run tests to measure hormones, along with other indicators of sex, and usually restore the child to the more dominant gender. In his 15 years of medical practice, el-Sonbaty has witnessed only one such case.

Male and female pseudo-hermaphrodites are slightly more common. Such persons suffer from a congenital sexual disorder in which they are born with ambiguous reproductive organs, or “mixed” sex anatomy. The condition includes a wide range of symptoms, including undeveloped, underdeveloped or disfigured sexual organs.

The unusual genitalia of intersex babies may confuse doctors and midwives. Thus, a child may be mistaken for a male when she is in fact female – and vise [sic] versa.

According to el-Sonbaty, the causes of intersex disorders are 57 percent genetic, 16 percent predispository, and 27 percent unknown factors. …

Editorial comment:

Has nobody ever considered what intersex people themselves want?

The Egyptian government’s “Health and Population Ministry banned all forms of female genital cutting in 2007,” according to Al Masry Aloum. OII believes that intersex genital mutilation must also be banned.

almasryalyoum: Beneath the galabiya: Intersex operations in Assiut