ACT to move forward with legislation to protect intersex children


intersex legislation australia
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The ACT government will move ahead with legislation to protect the human rights of intersex children

It comes after a 2019 commitment by the territory government to develop a plan for managing deferrable medical interventions. 

After nearly two years of consultation, public consultation legislation has been drafted to better protect intersex children.

The new approach will see intersex children and families receive information, advice and psychological and peer support.

Unless medically necessary, all medical procedures would be deferrable until the child is able to consent.

Advocacy group Intersex Human Rights Australia welcomed the announcement. 

A historic moment

Bioethicist and IHRA executive director Morgan Carpenter said it was a “historic moment”.

“For more than twenty years, the intersex movement in Australia has sought legal reforms to protect people with innate variations of sex characteristics in medical settings,” Carpenter said. 

“The persistence of ‘normalising’ interventions, intending to make the bodies of children with intersex variations fit gender stereotypes, has been our most intractable issue.”

Carpenter said IHRA and other advocates had worked alongside the government on the draft legislation.

He thanked the chief minister and called on all Australian jurisdictions to take the same steps forward. 

The work continues

IHRA Senior project officer Cody Smith reflected on childhood experiences.

Smith said growing up in Canberra with scars and multiple medical appointments made them feel like “the odd kid”.

“I made a promise to myself that the next child born like me would have better opportunities,” they said. 

“A chance to make decisions for themselves and not live with the burden of shame or secrecy.

“To finally realise this promise brings an overwhelming sense of relief.”

Smith said there was a deep sense of pride in being able to contribute to this decision in their hometown.

They said work remained to help protect intersex children across Australia.

“I have immense gratitude for all the work that happened before me, and the support of friends, family, and colleagues.”

“There is tangible grief for the children that could not be protected sooner, and for the activists we’ve lost along the way. 

“There’s optimism and fatigue in equal parts, knowing this work also has to happen right across Australia. 

“For now it feels like something worth celebrating.”

The consultation draft is available online at https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/policystrategic/the-office-of-lgbtiq-affairs/variations-in-sex-characteristics-bill
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