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33 states tell the United Nations to protect intersex people’s rights

33 states tell the United Nations to protect intersex people’s rights

  • ‘This is an historic step forward for intersex communities globally.’
ILGA activists demanding intersex rights in 2018.

33 countries from all regions of the world have called on the UN Human Rights Council to urgently protect intersex people.

They warn intersex people are not allowed ‘bodily autonomy’ and many nations deny them their ‘right to health’.

Intersex people are born with diverse sex characteristics that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. These may include genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns.

Up to 1.7% of the global population is born with such traits. However many countries and doctors view their bodies as different. As a result intersex children and adults often face stigma and operations without their consent to ‘normalize’ them.

Today Austria told the Human Rights Council on behalf of itself and 32 other countries:

‘In many countries around the world intersex people are subjected to medically unnecessary surgeries, hormonal treatments and other procedures in an attempt to change their appearance to be in line with gendered societal expectations of male and female bodies without their full and informed consent.

‘Governments should investigate human rights violations and abuses against intersex people, ensure accountability, reverse discriminatory laws and provide victims with access to remedy.’

‘Historic step forward’

Tony Briffa, chair of the Intersex Committee at ILGA World and a co-executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia, says:

‘This is an historic step forward for the global intersex community. 

‘For the first time states have taken the lead, recognised the historic injustice that people with diverse sex characteristics are still facing every day, and are pushing their own governments and others to work with civil society to raise awareness.’

A group of eight non-governmental organisations have welcomed the intervention. They have worked for years, along with other campaigners, to make sure intersex stories are heard.

Intersex people have shared how what happens to them can damage their health, education and employment opportunities.

Many find they can’t compete in sports due to governing bodies’ cruel rules. This has even affected top athletes like Olympic Gold runner Caster Semenya.

Meanwhile, they are left without ways to get justice over the discrimination they face.

However, the world is very slowly changing.

The UN has now passed a resolution calling for an end to discrimination of women and girls in sports. This includes women born with variations of sex characteristics. This was the first UN resolution on the rights of intersex persons.

And this year a children’s hospital in Chicago became the first in the US to publicly apologize for harming intersex people. It announced it would stop medically unnecessary ‘normalising’ surgeries.

Intersex people demand to live free from torture

Now organizations want the UN Human Rights Council to do more.

They are asking them to ‘take further action in protecting intersex persons’ autonomy, rights to health, to physical and mental integrity’.

Moreover, they demand ‘to live free from violence and harmful practices’ and ‘from torture and ill-treatment’.

Mauro Cabral Grinspan of GATE, a global campaign for trans, non-binary and intersex people, said: 

‘Our bodies were born whole, and only we should have had the right to decide what happened to them.

‘Violations against our bodies that only seek to make us fit the binary model of how women and men should look like are still the norm rather than the exception.

‘We hope that today’s words at the United Nations will push states to finally take action.’