|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
The following story by Saudi newspaper Okaz offers a rare insight into the ongoing debate in Saudi society over the issue of sex reassignment.
From advocacy perspective, the following facts from the article is worth considering:
1- In Saudi Arabia, only intersex individuals are allowed to undergo sex-reassignment process. According to a decree by the Saudi Ministry of Health -issued in May 2011-, all hospitals and medical centers can only perform sex-correction precedes only after the cases are confirmed by the "Medical Treatment Office" of the Health Ministry.
2- In Suadi Arabia, the religious principle for the sex reassignment surgery can be condensed into one sentence: " Correcting sexuality (which is caused by a birth defect) is allowed, changing sexuality is illegal". This is the view expressed by the head of the vice-president of the International Union of Islamic Scholars, Dr. Abdullah Bin Beah. The article argues that both the Saudi High Council of Religious Experts (the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia) and AlAzhar University in Egypt hold same view on sex-reassignment. Under this doctrine, if "the experts" decide that "the real sexuality" of an intersex person is male, that person's sexuality will "be corrected accordingly", regardless of the person's preference.
3- The only medical center in Saudi Arabia that performs "sex-correction procedures" is the Sex Correction Center at King Abdul Aziz University Hospital. The center has performed 425 such operations in the past 27 years, on patients ranging from newborn babies to 40-year old individuals. According to the head of the Center, Dr. Yaser Jamal, 93% of interest cases are diagnosed at birth and the "corrective surgery" is performed within the first-two-years after birth.
4- Despite the high number of sex-reassignment cases, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not have adequate post-surgical psychological care. As a result, 60% of those who go through the "sex-correction process" cannot adapt to their new gender role and suffer from psychological problems, which may, in some cases, lead to suicide. In many instances, intersex individuals are harassed by family members, society, and the religious police, and sometimes end up in jail. Even though their sex-reassignment is legally approved, the police often consider them to be gay, which is a crime in Saudi Arabia. In order to remedy the situation, there have been advocacy efforts by members of the Saudi Consultative Council (Shura) to provide better legal protection for intersex individuals.Such a move is met with resistance from the Saudi religious police as well as some Saudi Judges.
5- The Saudi religious police continues to crackdown on homosexuals. According to Sheik Ahmed Ali Al Ghamidi, a ranking member of the Religious Police in Riyadh, during a one-year period, 260 people were arrested and punished for homosexuality, including cases of cross-dressing, men wearing
make-up, or men trying to pick-up other men. Mr Ghamidi complains that there are not enough treatment centers in the Kingdom to cure homosexuality.
You can read the entire text of this article here: http://www.okaz.com.sa/new/Issues/20110603/PrinCon20110603424060.htm