A recent United Nations request for submissions regarding asylum seekers has drawn our attention to the lack of rights experienced by intersex refugees and asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers may find protection under Australian law if they fear for their safety or life on a number of grounds.

Intersex refugees may be fleeing a society that excludes them or seeks to assign them male or female, against their will.

For intersex refugees fleeing exclusion, violence, medical interventions and seeking a society where their differences are acceptable, the outlook is bleak.

No country in the world has laws protecting intersex except South Africa. Even there, the laws are more honoured in the breach.

An intersex person might flee in many different circumstances.

An event such as sports sex testing or infertility might make an adult’s intersex known to them, their family, friends and the wider community. That adult might then be thrown out of a marriage, their family, their home, village or town and be left destitute.

In those circumstances, intersex are often subjected to violence and deprivation sometimes to the point of death. If that individual sought asylum in a country where they might not be persecuted, the question would be “which country would offer me refuge?”

There are none that specify intersex as grounds for asylum. Indeed, most would see sex and gender reinforcement, surgery and medication as reasonable. Others only provide the same kind of environment from which escape is sought.

How would a parent fare in seeking asylum in a suitably protective and accepting country? Not well, by all accounts.

In Australia courts are likely to see early intervention as being in the best interests of the child. Most other countries take the same view. They may send the child home for surgical interventions.

Australia should take the lead by providing full human rights protection for intersex people and allowing intersex as grounds for asylum to those fleeing homophobic oppression because of their intersex anatomies.

By GINA WILSON, Intersex International Australia.

info: Visit www.oiiaustralia.com

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