Infringement of basic rights: An intersex man’s battle

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

Nikita was christened with a female name and raised female, but he is now a grown man, happily married and blessed with a son.

This is the story of an intersex man in Zimbabwe who recalls harrowing rejection and stigma for being born with a combination of male and female biological traits. 

He was born Fortunate Nikita Sibanda in Kwekwe, a town over 200 km from the capital city of Harare.  

“[Being] intersex has never been easy, which explains why my parents decided to raise and register me as a female – to avoid a lot of judgment and discrimination from both their families and the community,” says Nikita, who has since dropped the feminine first name.

The beginning of misery 

Nikita says his misery began when he lost both his parents by the time he was seven.

“When I became an orphan, my maternal uncle took custody of me, and it was the worst experience,” he says.

“I would not object [to] what they felt I should wear or do since my parents had told them I was a girl,” explains the 28-year-old, who calls himself ‘The Proud Unstoppable Intersex’.

Through his primary and secondary education, Nikita had to endure wearing female uniforms, much against his preference.

At puberty, he became attracted to girls, which did not go down well with his uncle, who later disowned him.

A difficult love life 

In high school, Nikita had relationships with girls, but endured his share of nasty experiences.

Some girls were just trying to ascertain whether he was really a boy, and only a few would date him genuinely.

His whole life changed after he was taken in by another maternal uncle.

“When I got chased away from home, my other uncle took me in and helped me acquire a temporary teaching job where I then met my wife,” says Nikita.

“She is one woman who wholly accepted me but had to shrug off much criticism for dating an ‘abhorrent’.”

Even paying lobola (dowry) to his in-laws was no mean task – it took them five years to finally accept.

Human rights issues

Nikita and his wife are now struggling to get a birth certificate for their five-year-old son, who is about to start elementary education.

“I have not been able to acquire a birth certificate for my son to enrol at a government school because here they don’t recognise the same-sex couple,” he says.

“To get the birth certificate, I have to alter my documents. 

“My greatest pride as an intersex will be in acquiring a birth certificate for my son, who should not suffer because he has an intersex parent.”

According to Intersex Community of Zimbabwe director Roni Zuze, Nikita’s case is just one of many challenges the organisation is facing in fighting for the rights of intersex people in the country.

“Nikita’s case is about the rights of intersex persons concerning access to legal documentation, but the most important thing is that there is the need for information dissemination on intersex, so that people understand that the condition is normal,” says Zuze.

Renowned local feminist Bella Matambanadzo described Nikita’s situation as an infringement of a basic right.

“Under Zimbabwean law, every child born in the country is entitled to a birth registration document,” says Matambanadzo. 

“No child can be denied that right.

“The parent’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression are immaterial.”

Pink Advocate