GATE Statement on the Intersex Awareness Day, 2017

On this Intersex Awareness Day, GATE welcomes action to end forced and coercive medical interventions on infants, children and adolescents with intersex variations. Notable highlights during the past year include a major report by Human Rights Watch and interACT in the US,[1] and a resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.[2]  This month, Physicians for Human Rights issued a powerful and very welcome statement calling for an end to unnecessary surgeries on intersex children.[3] These advancements signal the mainstreaming of intersex human rights issues into the work of human rights institutions.

However, profound challenges remain.

It remains the case that only one country in the world protects infants and children from forced and coercive medical interventions.[4] It also remains the case that countries who proclaim their progressiveness on “LGBTI” issues still facilitate routine harmful medical practices – including practices described by the judicial system of one Western high income country as having “enhanced the appearance” of a 3-year old child’s genitalia.[5]

It remains the case that few medical institutions have addressed the human rights implications of medical interventions, and too many clinical institutions remain wedded to practices grounded in gender stereotypes and harmful social norms, denying the lack of evidence supporting those practices and ignoring the evidence condemning them.

It remains the case that comprehension of intersex amongst allied organizations, including the LGBT movement and those movements of trans, gender diverse and gender non-binary people, remains low. The diversity of intersex lives, our diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions, are frequently lost. Despite clear messages coming from the international intersex movement, intersex issues keep being instrumentalised to advance other political agendas.

It remains the case that intersex organizing remains precarious, with limited resourcing and profound capacity constraints. The aggregation of intersex issues into data collection, analysis, programming and communications on “LGTBI” populations have proven to be highly detrimental to the full articulation of intersex people’s rights. This situation is particularly evident in those initiatives focused on socioeconomic rights, where determinants affecting intersex people care frequently ignored or misrepresented.

GATE calls today:

  • For the recognition of our rights to bodily integrity and self-determination, and for the recognition of our right to the truth about what has been done to our bodies, and to our population as a whole.
  • To countries that promote their progress on LGBTI issues, we demand a genuine commitment on intersex human rights issues. Such commitment is compatible only with the prohibition of medically unnecessary “normalizing” interventions that take place without personal consent. It requires the dismantling of all forms of torture in medical settings against intersex people, and provision of adequate reparations to victims.
  • To the World Health Organization and all clinical institutions at the national, regional and international levels, to implement systematic change in medical practices, including the development of transparent standards of care that respect our human rights in genuine consultation with intersex people.
  • To allies and donors, to respect, support and resource the leadership of intersex people on intersex issues, and to avoid all forms of misrepresentation, reduction or appropriation of those issues.
  • To intersex advocates around the world, to keep working together. The outstanding advances produced by our movement show that, even in the most challenging times, collective hope remains.

The GATE Team, 26 October 2017.

References

[1] Human Rights Watch. (2017). “I Want to Be Like Nature Made Me.” Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/07/25/i-want-be-nature-made-me/medically-unnecessary-surgeries-intersex-children-us

[2] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. (2017). Promoting the human rights of and eliminating discrimination against intersex people (No. 14404). Retrieved from http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=24027&lang=en

[3] Physicians for Human Rights. (2017). Unnecessary Surgery on Intersex Children Must Stop. Retrieved from http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/intersex-surgery-must-stop.html

[4] Malta. Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act: Final version (2015). Retrieved from http://justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lp&itemid=26805&l=1

[5] Australia. See: Carpenter, M., & Organisation Intersex International Australia. (2017). Shadow Report submission to the Human Rights Committee on the situation of intersex people in Australia (No. INT/CCPR/CSS/AUS/28771). Retrieved from https://oii.org.au/31568/shadow-report-iccpr-2017/