Activists around the world are celebrating the 16th Intersex Awareness Day (IAD), calling for an end to stigmatization and discrimination.
Intersex people are people who have physical differences of sex anatomy other, which may include genetic, hormonal or genital differences or differences in reproductive parts.
Today (26 October), campaigners hope to make as many people as possible aware of what intersex is and that it is not a disease, a disorder or a medical condition.
Gina Wilson, chair of Organization Intersex International Australia, hailed IAD as a ‘call for our right to an equal place in society’.
She said: ‘Intersex is difference in the same way that eye color or right or left handedness are differences or human biological variations.
‘As with handedness or sexual orientation, societies have in the past looked upon human variations through the lens of prejudice and then sought ways to “cure” or eliminate that variation.
‘At a fundamental level homophobic bigotry, intolerance and ancient superstitions underpin contemporary mistreatment of intersex people.
‘Intersex people are subjected to forced gendering and surgical alterations to our bodies to “disappear” our differences in a society that regards difference in sex anatomy as deeply suspicious.’
Intersex Awareness Day was started in 1996 by the now defunct Intersex Society of North America with a demonstration outside the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston.
Those picketing this event were outraged that the doctors attending the conference were recommending and conducting infant genital surgery on intersex kids in order to make them more ‘normal’. Some of those protesting had been subjected to those kinds of surgery when they were infants.
The International Lesbian and Gay Association in Europe (ILGA-Europe) claims IAD is a ‘great opportunity’ to foster greater understanding of intersex people and work towards improving their human rights.
‘Across Europe, babies who are born intersex, or those children who are identified as intersex later in their lives, are routinely "normalised" without prior personal and informed consent through intrusive and unnecessary surgeries and medical interventions which often have adverse long-term effects on their psychological, sexual and physical wellbeing.
‘ILGA-Europe commends the European Commission for publishing a report that expressly covers the human rights situation of intersex people earlier this year, and calls on European institutions and national governments to review the practices that intersex people are subjected to in their respective jurisdiction and take the necessary actions for the full respect of their human rights.’
‘TIA believes that this day is a great opportunity to break the silence and stop the ignorance about the existence of the intersex community in South Africa,’ said the statement.
‘It is also an opportune time to highlight the challenges and struggle that intersex individuals face in our country, such as non-consensual and unnecessary genital mutilation of intersex babies.’
TIA are dedicating the 14 days from International Intersex Awareness Day until Intersex Day of Remembrance (8 November) to spreading information through social media, radio interviews and TV appearances.