Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has just issued a powerful statement on the rights of intersex people. It acknowledges a history of surgeries without consent, and our rights to self-determination and physical integrity. It acknowledges a need for greater public awareness, and better support for parents, families and intersex children:
“Corrective” operations and treatment are usually traumatising and humiliating. They can take a long time and post-operative complications are common. There are long-term effects on intersex individuals’ mental health and well-being… early “normalising” treatments do not respect intersex persons’ rights to self-determination and physical integrity. Intersex babies and younger children are not in a position to give their consent. The proxy consent given by parents may not be free and fully informed and can hardly take into account the best interests of the child in the long-run.
It also acknowledges the need for better legal recognition – and makes reference to Australia’s reform of the Sex Discrimination Act, describing it as “a powerful tool to foster the equality of intersex people”.
I urge governments in Europe to review their current legislation and medical practices to identify gaps in the protection of intersex people and take measures to address the problems. Policy makers should involve civil society advocates of intersex persons such as the OII Europe and ILGA-Europe in these efforts. The enjoyment of human rights is universal and it cannot depend on the sex of the person. Intersex individuals must be granted full legal recognition from birth and amendments to their sex or gender classification should be facilitated to reflect their individual choices.
We warmly welcome this statement.
OII Australia’s Morgan Carpenter was pleased to participate in the Council of Europe’s consultation on intersex human rights issues.
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