The landmark bill was passed yesterday and forbids medical professionals from carrying out unnecessary surgical intervention on intersex infants.

Intersex advocates have long campaigned for such laws across the world. They argue that trying to “fix” intersex infants with surgery is damaging and unnecessary, and that intersex individuals should be allowed to determine their own identity and whether they desire surgery as they grow up.

Maltese officials will now work with medical professionals to draw up best practice guidelines to ensure any surgery or medical interventions that do take place are medically necessary and not “driven by social factors without the consent of the minor”.

The new law also contains provisions for gender recognition and legal protections for trans and intersex people. Some activists are hailing them as being among the most progressive gender identity laws in the world.

Maltese MEP Miriam Dalli said: “I am very proud to be from a country that has from now on the most comprehensive and respectful laws when it comes to the rights of trans and intersex people.

“No one should be declared mentally ill, undergo forced surgery or being forced to go through a divorce, in order to be recognised as who they truly are. I sincerely hope that the whole of Europe will follow Malta’s example, and that such degrading practices will be issues of the past.”

Alecs Recher, co-chair of Transgender Europe said in a statement: “The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act sets a new benchmark for Europe. We are thrilled about the respectful, comprehensive and yet practical aspirations of this new Maltese act. It is firmly build on trans and intersex persons´ right to be recognized for who they are.

“Furthermore, the GIGESC Act creates the conditions for an equal society as it recognises and protects trans and intersex persons in all spheres of life.”

Fellow co-chair Arja Voipio added: “Lawmakers in the rest of Europe should take inspiration from this trail-blazer for swift action.”