Go-Jamaica Gleaner Classifieds Discover Jamaica Youth Link Jamaica
Business Directory Go Shopping inns of jamaica Local Communities

Lead Stories
Arts &Leisure
In Focus
More News
The Star
Financial Gleaner
Overseas News
The Voice (UK)
Hospitality Jamaica

1998 - Now (HTML)
1834 - Now (PDF)
Find a Jamaican
Power 106FM
News by E-mail
Print Subscriptions
Dating & Love
Free Email
Submit a Letter
Weekly Poll
About Us
Gleaner Company
Contact Us
Other News
Stabroek News

Gendered fender benders
published: Sunday | August 24, 2008

Glenda Simms, Contributor

In an effort to guarantee the human rights of all citizens of the modern world, governments of all political stripes ratify a whole range of international conventions and treaties and make commitments to honour the human rights of all their citizens. In particular, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is broadly accepted as a commitment to the intrinsic human rights of children.

In this overall vision of non-discrimination on any basis, the majority of governments, including the Jamaican government, also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Human rights

Articles 1 and 2 of this most important Women's Human Rights Treaty call upon nation states to define discrimination against women to mean "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field".

In order to achieve these lofty goals within a traditional patriarchal framework, CEDAW challenges state parties to "embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation".

In essence, the ratification of this landmark women's human rights treaty is a commitment for all the signatories to ensure that no woman is discriminated against on any grounds.

Positive change

While there is an observable and measurable positive change in the status of women and girls in general in all regions of the world, there are still specific groups of women whose human rights are violated because of the social, religious and political ideologies of their societies.

In this confusion around those who deserve to be discriminated against, some societies have clearly declared that men and women who define their sexuality outside of what is defined as the 'norm' run the risk of experiencing state-sanctioned discrimination.

While the jury is out on the genesis of all forms of sexual orientation outside of the heterosexual, there is a group of human beings whose sexual identity implicated the hands of the many gods who purportedly created the ingredients that make us women or men, boys or girls.

In a recent presentation to a sub-committee of CEDAW, a non-governmental group representing transsexual women in Germany argued that the state discriminates against women who were designed to be girls at birth but who entered the world with ambiguous genitalia.

In some societies, these human beings are call hermaphrodites but in general terms "there are studies in fields of neuroscience, human genetics and other disciplines that prove that transsexuality is something one is born with", and by extension, such human beings ought not to be discriminated against, on any basis.

Intrinsic knowledge

Individuals who advocate for this group of persons argue that the "brain is the most important sexual organ" and any person born with this variation on the human theme has a right to define his or her identity based on his or her intrinsic knowledge of his or her "God-given" being.

From the concerns raised on behalf of transsexual women, CEDAW experts learnt that in Germany there are between 80,000 to 120,000 citizens who identify themselves as intersexual individuals. In other words, these persons were born either without an observable penis or vagina, or with both of these body parts which are the external markers that define us as either boy or girl.

Today, human rights activists are challenging the German government to control the power of the medical fraternity, which has historically decided the sexual identity of intersexual children at birth.

In my capacity as an expert on the CEDAW, I am constantly being challenged to contemplate how some of the non-mainstream gendered issues, such as intersexuality are dealt with or hidden in the socio-cultural fabric of the Jamaican society.

Rural Jamaican folk of my vintage were birthed in the privacy of the family home, where our mothers were attended by the local 'midwife' who had no medical training, but whose reputation for safe delivery predates the contemporary middle-class 'home birthing movement'.


From time to time, among the rural peasantry, there were whispers about a girl baby who was born with both a penis and a vagina. These whispers were generally never confirmed because the two people (mother and midwife) who knew the truth behind the rumours kept their mouths shut.In sharp contrast, according to an entry in Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Lady Colin Campbell is described as a woman who was born in Jamaica in 1949 to a prominent family, who are descendants of Maronite Catholic brothers who migrated to Jamaica from Lebanon in the early 1900s.

Lady Colin Campbell reportedly was born "with an unspecified form of intersex and was brought up as a boy named George William until her late teens".

When she was 13 she realised that there was something wrong with her gendered definition and secretly sought the help of a gynaecologist. Of course, her parents objected and "authorised brutal treatment with other physicians who forcibly gave her male hormones".

Gender reassignment

Because of her connections to money and the power class, this woman was able to eventually get 'gender reassignment surgery' at 18 in New York City, where she worked as a model.

In 1974 she married into the British aristocracy and adopted Russian-born sons. After her divorce from Lord Colin Ivar Campbell she has been linked to a string of both powerful and infamous men.

Obviously, this upper-class Jamaican transgendered woman is an example of the dilemma caused by the well-thought-through design of our Creator.

Perhaps these gendered variations should be brought into the broader discussion around the essential human rights that must be afforded every citizen in our nation state.

It is both unchristian and inhumane to discriminate and victimise human beings who did not have the opportunity to dictate their sexual identity with their maker.

Glenda Simms is a gender expert.

More In Focus

Print this Page

Letters to the Editor

Most Popular Stories

© Copyright 1997-2008 Gleaner Company Ltd.
Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Disclaimer | Letters to the Editor | Suggestions | Add our RSS feed
Home - Jamaica Gleaner