- Gender variance in Asia: discursive contestations and legal implications
- Gender, Technology and Development
- Volume | Issue number
- 14 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
A recent court case in Indonesia in which a person diagnosed with an intersex condition was classified as a transsexual gives rise to a reflection on three discourses in which gender variance is discussed: the biomedical, the cultural, and the human rights discourse. This article discusses the implications of these discourses. In the biomedical discourse, sex and gender are essentialized. The cultural discourse focuses on the different views on sex and gender in various historical and sociopolitical contexts. The human rights discourse posits the universality of human and sexual rights for all. The discursive contestations between biomedical and conservative religious and political leaders, on the one hand, and feminists, gay, and lesbian rights activists and human rights defenders, on the other hand, center around the definition of what is "normal" gender, a "normally" sexed body, and "normal" sex. In this process, gender and other forms of pluralism are under threat. The consequences are an urge to define and categorize that which used to be diffuse, liminal, and at times sacred, the medicalization of those persons with atypical genitalia and the stigmatization of those who insist on an in-between space, who don’t accept the binary sex-gender model. I argue that the human rights discourse supported by the cultural discourse offers the most promising route toward the acceptance of gender and sexual pluralism.
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