Every now and then, I read a piece of news that blows my mind. Like for instance, the fact that the incidence of “Gender Correction” (a.k.a. Gender Reassignment) is on the up in Saudia Arabia.
According to Arabic daily Okaz, this kind of surgery performed is five times as often than it has been on average over the past 25 years. The Al-Watan newspaper reported on a 2008 Saudi study, which revealed that in one year 60 such operations were carried out, compared to only 300 in the previous 25 years.
The study claims the rise is due to an “increase in awareness on the part of families and the significant medical developments witnessed in the Kingdom” - Basically – thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, more cases are being revealed and treated than ever before.
Intermarriage: The Main Culprit?
Apparently, the most likely root is intermarriage. Given the social preferences for arranged marriage between first cousins in The Kingdom, genetic defects that run in the family get magnified as the generations multiply. Suggested “cures” include the government pushing for more distant marriages among young people and relaxation of regulations on marrying non-Saudis.
How and When to Make the Decision
It’s a tough issue for an individual, or an individual’s family to decide when such an operation is necessary, wherever it happens. Western countries, for example, tend not to perform this kind of surgery until a child’s gender is unmistakable. This can mean delaying surgery until a child’s behaviour, brought on by hormonal changes dictate which gender dominates.
A Complex Symptom of a Complex Society?
The issue also reveals another complexity of Saudi society. It would seem from the outset that Saudis make great efforts to avoid sex, but it’s not exactly the way the cookie crumbles. When sex takes place within the marked, and loving confines of the right relationship, they are often more frank and open to conversing about it than say, Americans.
So far from being hush-hush, acknowledging that biological mistakes may have an affect on sexual identity is not something Saudi’s are whispering about… it’s all over the newspapers.
The mind boggles…