Years-long efforts by intersex Australians to ban non-consensual and unnecessary surgeries have received a major push from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Intersex people have a diversity of bodies and identities, with around 70 different conditions coming under the umbrella-term.
There’s no consensus, but some estimates suggest 1.7 per cent of the population could fit the definition.
An inquiry by the Australian Human Rights Commission has heard from intersex people and advocacy groups on protecting their human rights.
The inquiry heard intersex people routinely undergo irreversible, so-called “normalising” surgeries modifying their sex characteristics.
While some of the procedures and treatments are medically necessary, many are not.
Doctors have also conducted deferrable procedures when the intersex children were too young to provide consent.
Intersex people told the inquiry of various negative consequences on both their physical and mental wellbeing.
“‘Normalising’ interventions have been understood [by intersex people] as meaning that their bodies are undesirable or problematic,” the report states.
“This can fuel stigma and shame.”
Major report recommends laws to ban intersex surgeries
This week, the Australian Human Rights Commission released a landmark report from the inquiry.
It recommends regulation and all Australian states and territories pass laws stopping non-urgent medical interventions until the person is old enough to consent.
Earlier this year, both the ACT and Victoria announced plans to address the issue.
Everyone should be able to make their own choices about what happens to their body. But many #intersex people still don’t have a say in decisions about medical procedures performed on their bodies. https://t.co/oGJwFc9b2r
— Equality Australia 🌈 (@EqualityAu) October 16, 2021
Intersex community advocates have campaigned for such laws for many years.
Morgan Carpenter, director of Intersex Human Rights Australia, welcomed the Commission’s report.
Carpenter said the report acknowledges the “ongoing human rights abuses” intersex Australians have suffered.
“The report identifies key problems with current clinical practice, including lack of evidence, a reliance on psychosocial rationales that are better addressed by peer support and other forms of support, and a lack of attention to concerns raised by psychological and psychiatric professionals,” Carpenter said.
“Today we’re calling on state, territory and commonwealth governments to act to end these abuses.
“We need new laws that recognise our right to decide what happens to our own bodies.”
Intersex Australians seeking support can visit Intersex Peer Support Australia at isupport.org.au
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