UN Special Rapporteur on Torture calls for an end to coerced and involuntary genital-normalising surgeries

United Nations Human Rights Council
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture issued a statement on 1 February 2013 in Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez recognising that intersex people have been subject to non-consensual medical normalisation treatment, and calling for an end to forced sterilisation, forced hormone treatment, and genital-normalising surgeries:

76. … There is an abundance of accounts and testimonies of persons being denied medical treatment, subjected to verbal abuse and public humiliation, psychiatric evaluation, a variety of forced procedures such as sterilization, State-sponsored forcible … hormone therapy and genital-normalizing surgeries under the guise of so called “reparative therapies”. These procedures are rarely medically necessary, can cause scarring, loss of sexual sensation, pain, incontinence and lifelong depression and have also been criticized as being unscientific, potentially harmful and contributing to stigma (A/HRC/14/20, para. 23).

77. Children who are born with atypical sex characteristics are often subject to irreversible sex assignment, involuntary sterilization, involuntary genital normalizing surgery, performed without their informed consent, or that of their parents, “in an attempt to fix their sex”, leaving them with permanent, irreversible infertility and causing severe mental suffering…

79. The mandate has noted that “members of sexual minorities are disproportionately subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment because they fail to conform to socially constructed gender expectations.

The Special Rapporteur on Torture calls on member states to:

88. The Special Rapporteur calls upon all States to repeal any law allowing intrusive and irreversible treatments, including forced genital-normalizing surgery, involuntary sterilization, unethical experimentation, medical display, “reparative therapies” or “conversion therapies”, when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned. He also calls upon them to outlaw forced or coerced sterilization in all circumstances and provide special protection to individuals belonging to marginalized groups.

This is a hugely important development, and we’d like to give our thanks to Anne Tamar-Mattis of Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) in the US for her contribution to hearings on this issue. We’d also like to thank Hida Viloria, global chair of OII for her work in bringing intersex issues to the attention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We’re also pleased that this report uses non-pathologising language to describe intersex.

The report also rejects reparative or conversion therapies for lesbians and gay men, and involuntary sterilisation and other coerced treatment for trans people and people with disabilities.

OII Australia has brought these issues to the attention of the Australian government in our submissions on human rights issues, including in the recent hearings on the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. We will continue to do so.

We call on the Austalian government to ensure that sterilisation, hormone therapy and genital-normalising surgeries cease unless they are performed with the fully-informed, prior consent of the patients concerned.

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