Africa / Faith and religion

FAKE? Intersex victim buried in Kenya; compassion from afar

THIS ARTICLE WAS BASED ON DOCUMENTS THAT, ON INVESTIGATION, MAY HAVE BEEN FAKED. It has been labeled “FAKE?” rather than simply removed from the blog. As a result, any readers who follow links to it will see the “FAKE?” label rather than merely receiving an “Oops! That page can’t be found” error message.
— Colin Stewart, editor/publisher of this blog

Muhadh Ishmael was wrapped in sheet and then buried. (Photo by Joseph Odero)

Muhadh Ishmael was wrapped in sheets and then buried. (Photo by Joseph Odero)

Kenyan intersex murder victim Muhadh Ishmael received a simple, decent burial on Jan. 1, thanks to donations from people in the United States, Canada, France and Australia who grieved over his fate.

Muhadh died in Malindi, Kenya, on Dec. 21 of injuries he suffered in an   attack orchestrated by his hostile family.

His family did not accept his desire to be considered a man, insisting that he act like a woman. They kept him confined at home and refused to let him attend services at the local mosque or go to school.

Muhadh had a body that combined male and female features — both men’s and women’s genitalia and, after he reached puberty, enlarged breasts.

After his parents’ death, his remaining family decided they had had enough of him and his attitude. He was seized by four unknown men whom his uncle introduced to him as cousins. They drove him to a remote location, stripped him and drugged him. Then they cut off his penis.

He was abandoned in a forest, found by a passing motorist, taken to the local hospital and treated there for his injuries. But he kept losing blood and died at the hospital.

After his death, his family refused to acknowledge him and would not pay for his medical care or a funeral. Leaders of the mosque said they had never seen him.

The writer Joseph Odero interviewed Muhadh in the hospital on Dec.  15 and 16 for an article in this blog. It was published on Dec. 23, after Muhadh’s death, as “Intersex in Kenya: Held captive, beaten, hacked. Dead.”

Odero was upset about how Muhadh was treated both in life and in death, so he pleaded for help in arranging a decent burial for him. Odero also wanted to arrange for a post-mortem, which would be needed if local police were to investigate the murder. To make that possible, the blog appealed for a total of about US $430 in contributions to a Muhadh Fund.

Artwork published by Pidgeon Pagonis.

Artwork by Pidgeon Pagonis of the United States in memory of Muhadh Ishmael.

The appeal raised US$242, with a promise of an additional $350, which was not in fact received. The blog itself covered the difference, so Odero was able to arrange for the post-mortem and burial.

Odero traveled back to Malindi, arriving Dec. 31. He paid the hospital bill and morgue charges, then served as next-of-kin for the post-mortem and the burial permit.

“Doctors were remorseful” during the post-mortem, Odero said, but one homophobic nurse said, “Children born with abnormal genitals should not be left to grow. In fact, it’s advisable always to kill them while young.” Another nurse said, “They encourage men to behave as women, and women to behave as men. They deserve death or a long jail term.”

The post-mortem revealed that Muhadh’s genital area had been bandaged, but was still bleeding.

In his post-mortem report of Dec. 31, Dr. Jackson Kiprota Lemayon, the deputy state pathologist, noted  the injuries to Muhadh’s genital area: “a fresh red wound” and “continuous bleeding” in the pubic area. He reported that the cause of death was “excessive bleeding and irreparable tissue injury.”

After the post-mortem, Odero reported the crime to police, then arranged for the body’s transportation to the cemetery and for the services of a grave-digger.

Muhadh Ishmael in his hospital bed on Dec. 17, before his death on Dec. 21. (Photo by Joseph Odero)

Muhadh Ishmael in his hospital bed on Dec. 17, before his death on Dec. 21. (Photo by Joseph Odero)

The body was transported to the cemetery in a pickup. The only people present were Odero, the grave-digger and three of Muhadh’s acquaintances.

Because Muhadh was a Muslim, the burial was conducted in accord with Muslim traditions, as expressed by the two Muslims there — the grave-digger and one of the mourners. The only ceremony consisted of prayers for Muhadh, recited by the grave-digger.

After the burial, Odero left Malindi, his mission complete.


8 thoughts on “FAKE? Intersex victim buried in Kenya; compassion from afar

    • In this case, however, there’s no indication that Islamic law was involved. Muhadh was murdered, not subjected to punishment on the basis of sharia law.
      — Colin Stewart, editor/publisher of this blog


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