ACT leader pledges ban on non-consensual intersex surgeries

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and a stock photo of an intersex human rights conference
Image: ACT Government (front), Sparrow/Wikimedia Commons

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has announced his government will soon introduce a draft bill to protect intersex people in an Australian first.

Intersex people – the “I” in LGBTQIA+ – are born with innate sex characteristics that don’t fit medical norms for female nor male bodies.

As infants, many undergo unnecessary and irreversible so-called “normalising” medical procedures when they’re too young to consent to them.

While some of the procedures and treatments are medically necessary, many are not. Intersex people have experienced lifelong complications and negative impacts on mental wellbeing as a result.

Chief Minister Barr told the Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference last week the ACT Government will introduce the bill to protect intersex people to the Parliament this month.

This bill will criminalise deferrable medical interventions until minors and adults under guardianship in the ACT are able to consent.

If passed, the legislation would be an Australian first and one of only a handful of such laws worldwide. Andrew Barr has also challenged all other Australian jurisdictions to follow suit.

‘Crucial and long-awaited’

Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA) director Morgan Carpenter applauded the ACT government for extensive consultation.

“We’ve been calling for such legislation since IHRA was established, alongside other reforms to promote access to peer and psychosocial support,” Morgan said.

“We offer our heartfelt congratulations to the ACT government for taking this crucial and long-awaited step.”

IHRA’s Cody Smith, a Canberra-based intersex educator, said that they were “born in the ACT and harmed in the ACT”.

“The impact of this announcement has been immediate and profound. I grew up in the ACT and I have so far spent my entire professional life dedicated to this cause,” Cody said.

“What has felt like an impossible dream has been made tangible today. The work must continue to protect people like me across Australia.”

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