intersex

The Senate’s Community Affairs References Committee has released a report which examines the sterilisation of intersex people in Australia and raises considerable concerns regarding the medical ethics and human rights of intersex people.

The report marks the first federal inquiry into this issue and joins only a handful of related international reports. The committee found that medical intervention should refrain from a goal of “normalisation.” OII Australia commented that “normalisation surgery is more than physical reconstruction. The surgery is intended to deconstruct an intersex physiology and, in turn, construct an identity that conforms with stereotypical male and female gender categories.”

It was recommended that data on intersex births, assignments of sex and surgical intervention was to be properly recorded. The committee also found that necessary medical intervention on minors should preserve their potential for varying identifies that is, until the patient reaches an age where they can consent to further medical interventions.

OII Australia Vice President Tony Briffa said “I’m pleased the Senate understands the many human rights issues intersex children have endured and hope their recommendations will be implemented swiftly. Many intersex adults describe their experiences with doctors as ‘child abuse’ and ‘assault.’ That is why I am calling for a moratorium on non-therapeutic and irreversible surgeries on intersex children until medical evidence proves they are in the best interests of the child.”

Procedures and ‘treatments’ often endured by intersex people include hormone therapy, medical photography, repeated unnecessary medical examinations, genital surgery which can include removal of all or part of the clitoris or the removal of healthy testes, and secrecy from family members and doctors. Ms Bonnie Hart, President of the AIS Support Group said that “we are grateful to these senators and all of the parties who were involved in supplying information to this enquiry so that a balanced and independent overview of the issues affecting intersex people and their families, clinicians and policy makers could be presented.”

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