Muhadh Ishmael, age 17, was born with a body that combined male and female features — both men’s and women’s genitalia and, after he reached puberty, enlarged breasts.
That intersex body caused much trouble in his family, who did not accept his desire to be considered a man.
His family, who live in rural Malindi, about 110 kilometers north of Mombasa, decided early this month that they had had enough of his stubbornness. 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 Arabuko Sokoke Forest, south of Malindi, where a passing motorist found him and took him to Malindi District Hospital.
He received treatment for his injuries, but kept losing blood. He died at the hospital on Dec. 21.
Before his death, during bedside interviews at the hospital on Dec. 15 and 16, Muhadh described his experiences. He was obviously in pain, struggling to talk despite an injury to his jaw and a feeding tube inserted through his nose. He spoke coherently, though in a low voice.
As a child, Muhadh said, he was named and treated like a girl. His parents and his uncles required him to wear a buibui, the shawl that is a typical Muslim attire for women in East Africa.
They called him Muhadh Hafswa Said and called him “she.” But Muhadh adopted the name Muhadh Ishmael and preferred to be called “he.”
He was always told that he was a curse on the family, a person brought miseries to them. He was blamed of any misfortune that befell the family, he said.
Muhadh was locked indoors, hidden from visitors, and often was beaten by his relatives, he said.
He was not allowed to go to the mosque or to attend school. His parents thought that sending him to school would be a waste of money, because he would die soon, he said.
He was turned over to the custody of an uncle [name withheld] after his parents died. His father died in October 2014.
At that time, he recalled, his uncle called him over to see him, and Muhadh was beaten by six energetic men who accused him of disrespecting the family and bringing shame on them. He was ordered to behave like a woman and to think of himself as a woman, not as a man.
After the death of his grandmother in November 2015, his uncle called him over again. In the uncle’s sitting room, he encountered four young men whom he did not know. The uncle introduced them as his cousins from Shimba Hills, southwest of Mombasa. They had come to give their condolences to the family on the death of Muhadh’s grandmother, the uncle said.
The uncle asked Muhadh to accompany the young men south to Kilifi town to do some shopping. Muhadh did not see the license plate on their vehicle.
Soon after he got in, they seized him and taped his eyes shut. They told him to say his final prayers and asked if he had any words he wanted them to tell the world after his death.
They drove him to a forest where he was stripped naked and given some yellow small tablets to take. He believed it was Largactil, a psychopharmaceutical that frequently makes people sleepy. Muhadh lost consciousness.
The next day, he awoke in a pool of blood in Arabuko Sokoke Forest, suffering from intense pain. His penis had been chopped off by his assailants, whom he did not know.
He had no phone. He made his way to a nearby Catholic church.
A man who was driving to work picked him up and took him to Malindi District Hospital.
No relative visited him there. No one came to see him except a friend whom he contacted on a borrowed phone. His friend helped make arrangements for Muhadh to be interviewed for this article.
His hospital bill rose to 25,780 Ksh (about US $260). Muhadh didn’t know how he could pay it.
His friend learned on Dec. 21 that Muhadh had died from blood loss. The doctors and nurses at the hospital had not paid much attention to Muhadh’s condition, because no one had paid them the small extra payments they demand in return for providing attentive service to a patient.
Muhadh’s family rejected him even in death. They refused to accept his body for the funeral.
His friend has not reported the crime to police for fear that he would be harassed or arrested for being gay.
Friends and supporters of Muhadh hope to raise money for a proper funeral for him. If an appeal to the public is needed, it will be announced here.
In cooperation with Erasing 76 crimes