An important new medical protocol has just been released by the Health Department of Victoria today. We welcome this very important improvement in how intersex children are treated, and will provide a full analysis at the weekend.
In the immediate term, we can advise that OII Australia’s key intervention came shortly after publication of the major Swiss report on intersex, and we’re pleased that it has led to significant changes in the final document, titled “Decision-making principles for the care of infants, children and adolescents with intersex conditions”. Note the language – no use of DSD, with clinician support – but also:
Treatments where the medical imperative for intervention is not obvious include those performed to protect against potential psychosocial stress associated with ‘looking different’ and being known by others to look different. Some advocates for intersex people now firmly argue that protection against potential psychosocial stress associated with looking different alone should no longer provide a satisfactory rationale for surgical intervention, and no longer provide a basis for characterising a treatment as therapeutic.
We would prefer that this was entirely excluded as a rationale for intervention, but, overall, we’re pleased from our initial analysis.
We also hope that international activists will pay note to the use of terminology, and shift away from the use of pathologising language. The term ‘intersex’ was endorsed by clinicians in Victoria, and it remains the preferred term amongst Australian community organisations.
Our response to this framework document
The document is flawed in that it still permits surgery on intersex infants to modify their genital appearance, purely for cosmetic purposes. The document merely reports a debate on these issues.
Our second submission to the current Senate Inquiry on involuntary and coerced sterilisation details the case of a suicidal intersex child who suffered a clitorectomy as an infant, and then went on to be sterilised in his teens on reassigned sex-of-rearing to male, with Family Court approval. This scenario is just as likely to happen again under the new Victorian protocols.