A proposal has been put forward to the Tasmanian Government calling for an end to involuntary medical interventions performed on intersex children across the state.
The proposal—put together by the Tasmania Law Reform Institute (TLRI)—would criminalise performing surgeries to erase the intersex traits of intersex children without their consent, according to the ABC.
In Australia, only parental consent is currently needed for babies and children born with intersex variations to undergo the ‘sterilising’ medical interventions.
The invasive procedures continue to be carried out in Australia without personal informed consent, and are often irreversible.
They can cause permanent infertility, pain, a loss of sexual sensation, and lifelong mental health issues like depression.
If Tasmania adopts the proposal by the TLRI, it would become the first jurisdiction in Australia to criminalise surgically altering an intersex child’s sex without their consent.
Speaking to the ABC, TLRI lawyer Jess Feehely highlighted the need for reform around the interventions.
“It is a complicated issue around parental rights, around the interests of children and the agency of people with intersex variations, and the extend to which they should — with the greatest extent possible — be involved in decisions that affect their body,” she said.
The TLRI has proposed establishing a specialist tribunal or statutory body to oversee any medical intervention on an intersex child, other than in an emergency situation.
It also suggested allowing civil claims to be lodged against doctors who perform the surgery, and setting up a new code of conduct for doctors.
On Intersex Awareness Day last year, Co-Executive Director of Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA), Morgan Carpenter, said the only way to end unnecessary medical interventions on intersex people was by enacting policy change.
“We hear a lot of reassurances from different bodies that there has been change, but nobody has been able to produce any evidence of that,” he told the Star Observer.
“Often these surgeries are conducted early because of the idea that children can be saved from trauma, but young people need time to learn about their bodies and make their own informed decisions, an autonomy removed from them through these procedures.”
Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics that don’t fit binary ideas around male and female bodies.
There are at least 40 kinds of intersex variations and according to experts up to 1.7 per cent of the population are born with one or more of them.
Some intersex traits are visible at birth while others might not be apparent until puberty.