In South Africa, being intersex is considered bad luck. This young woman is fighting back

Babalwa Mtshawu (right). Image: Babalwa Mtshawu

Babalwa Mtshawu never experienced puberty. When she was growing up she didn’t get her period or grow breasts like the other girls around her.

At the age of 25, after years of trying to figure out why she was different, she finally booked an appointment with the doctor. “The doctors ran some tests, and that’s when I discovered that I am intersex,” she said.


Mtshawu, now 32, says babies discovered to be intersex at birth are sometimes killed due to the traditional belief that they are bad luck.

According to a 2018 report by South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper, some traditional healers, midwives, and birth attendants have admitted to killing babies with indefinite genitalia.

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These babies are considered a manifestation of sorcery and witchcraft.

Many intersex children are also subjected to non-consensual medical interventions.


Gender and sexual diversity education are mandated by South Africa’s constitution, but not a lot of schools incorporate teaching sexual variations in their curriculum.

According to Mtshawu, educating students about intersexuality will reduce the existing misconceptions around it.

Read full, original post: Growing up intersex in a country where it is believed to be bad luck

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