Intersex Australians call for ban on non-consensual surgeries

intersex awareness day conference ilga intersex australian human rights commission
Image: Sparrow/Wikimedia Commons

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 refers to people born with genetic, hormonal or physical sex characteristics not conforming to stereotypes of male or female bodies.

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.

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

Read also: The history of gender testing at the Olympic Games.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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