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Landmark shift to end unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex children gains pace in Australia

Josh Milton July 19, 2021
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The UN classes unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex babies as a human rights violation (Pexels)

Victoria, Australia is to end unnecessary and intrusive genital surgeries on intersex people, the state government has announced.

Labor health minister Martin Foley pledged to better protect intersex youth from vastly cosmetic medical interventions that have long relied on historical stigma.

Intersex folk are born with a particular set of sex characteristics — such as chromosomes, genitalia, reproductive anatomy and hormones — that don’t fit neatly into binary categories of male or female.

As much as biological variances are perfectly natural in humans, surgeons have for decades sought to “fix” intersex babies with coerced or involuntary surgeries and sterilisation.

But not for much longer in Victoria, according to proposals outlined in a policy document titled The (i) Am Equal: Future Directions for Victoria’s Intersex Community.

Foley described the reforms on Instagram: “The Andrews Labor Government is taking another step towards achieving equality for people with intersex variations, by releasing a paper today which will drive our efforts to improve their lives over the coming years.

 

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A post shared by Martin Foley (@martinfoleymp)

“Victorians with intersex variations and their families receive high-quality care and support,” he added.

Intersex people deserve to make their own decisions, say activists

The proposals detail how the government will take steps to increase access to resources, improve treatment options and tailor health and wellbeing services, among other things.

Top intersex activists are set to work with the Victorian Department of Health to guide the department with its policy reform, with consultations to be held with intersex people, their parents and guardians and clinicians in the coming month.

An oversight panel will also be made to act as a firewall to prevent intersex Victorians from being put through deferrable medical interventions without their consent.

“Every person in Australia deserves healthcare that respects their right to make their own decisions about their bodies,” said Morgan Carpenter, an executive director for Intersex Human Rights Australia, in a press release.

“These reforms seek to ensure that Victorians with innate variations of sex characteristics have that right in relation to all elective treatment.”

“Addressing the human rights and treatment of Victorian children born with variations of sex characteristics has been a long time in the making, and it’s important we get it right,” added Tony Briffa, co-chair of the Victorian Intersex Expert Advisory Group.

Briffa stressed that the proposals as much as they are “long overdue” are still just the “foundations” of what is to come.

“It’s through working together collaboratively, respectfully and based on evidence that we learn from the past to protect and nurture intersex children in the future,” Briffa added.

 

Related topics: intersex

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