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Gender correction surgeries up
Saudi Gazette report
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 10 - 2009

The number of “gender correction” operations conducted at hospitals in the Kingdom has risen markedly in recent years, according to specialists in the field.
Al-Watan newspaper reported Sunday that a 2008 Saudi study showed that in one year 60 such operations were carried out compared to only 300 in the previous 25 years.
The study said the rise was due to an “increase in awareness on the part of families and the significant medical developments witnessed in the Kingdom”, which has contributed in revealing more cases than previously.
The study – “Sex Correction in Saudi Arabia” – which cited the testimony of 10 persons who underwent surgery to become males, was produced by pediatric specialists, surgeons as well as psychologists and sociologists, among them Dr. Yasser Saleh, consultant pediatric and cosmetic surgeon at King Abdulaziz University's Faculty of Medicine, consultant and cosmetic surgeon Dr. Soleiman Jaber of Jeddah's National Hospital, and Dr. Amjad Tahir of Jeddah's University Hospital, a consultant on female and maternity illnesses.
According to Dr. Mona Mustafa, who works at a specialist center in Jeddah funded by a charity, one in five children in the Kingdom are hermaphrodites, but even still she says that it is “not a big problem and not common.”
“Some families are not aware of the issue, and some see the issue of operations to rectify the problem in terms of right or wrong, viewing it as a sin committed against their children,” Dr. Mustafa says. “Families should consult specialists for advice on the best way for their children to lead normal and healthy lives.”
Dr. Mustafa identifies three main classifications of hermaphrodites: “The male hermaphrodite has abnormal external genitalia but also has testicles, and in this case the individual is corrected to become male. The female hermaphrodite displays male genitalia but also has ovaries and a womb, and undergoes surgery to become female,” she says. “There remains the ‘true hermaphrodite', who has both testicles and ovaries, and gender corrective surgery here is only performed after taking into consideration other factors that serve to define gender, but if the genitalia more closely resemble those of a female then the person undergoes surgery to become female, and if they are more male, then surgical intervention renders the individual male.”
The conversion begins with a gradual period of consultation with the individual, Dr. Mustafa says, during which the person is acclimatized to a personality reflecting the gender identity which has been decided will be adopted through surgery.
“The family has a decisive part to play in this,” she says, “as they can help the individual accept the need for the operation and become more receptive to psychological help.”
“Most cases are found during examinations at birth, and 93 percent of cases are dealt with when the subject is still in infancy,” Dr. Mustafa says.
Operations that “correct gender” – which can cost anything between SR10,000 and SR50,000, depending on the nature of the individual case – are to be distinguished from “sex-change operations”, she says.
“Sex-change operations are not permitted in Shariah, whereas there is no problem with gender correction as it addresses faults in the reproductive organs,” Dr. Mustafa adds.
In that regard, the Board of Senior Ulema, the Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and Fatwas in the Kingdom, and the Fiqh Assembly at the Muslim World League all have fatwas permitting gender correction and prohibiting sex changes.
Causes
“Causes can be due to family intermarriage or genetically inherited issues,” Dr. Mustafa told Al-Watan. “We once saw a case of five brothers, each having both male and female organs, and now they are all males leading perfectly normal and healthy lives.”


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