2016 federal election priorities: an intersex election agenda

The 2016 federal election has now been called. Organisation Intersex International Australia would like to encourage enrolment by people with intersex variations at the earliest opportunity, and we take this opportunity to outline our priorities for the campaign.

Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that do not meet medical and social norms for female or male bodies, and we suffer stigmatisation and discrimination as a result. OII Australia is an intersex-led Public Benevolent Institution that promotes the bodily autonomy and human rights of intersex people. We also provide information, education and peer support. Our policy is guided by the statement of the 2013 Third International Intersex Forum in Malta. OII Australia is run by volunteers without the benefit of public funding.


We ask federal political parties to commit to recognition of the right of intersex people to bodily autonomy, a right that most people take for granted. The 2013 Senate committee report on involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people heard evidence that “normalising” treatments aimed at eliminating intersex traits are still recommended in Australia, despite a lack of clear evidence of benefit, and significant evidence that such treatments are human rights abuses. The Senate inquiry, like statements since by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Spanish link), call for an end to human rights abuses.

We ask federal political parties to take action to:

  • protect the right of intersex people to bodily integrity
  • ensure that children born with atypical sex characteristics are not subjected to medical interventions to modify their sex characteristics without their personal consent, when undertaken for social or cultural reasons such as marriage prospects, gender incongruity or parental distress
  • ensure that people with intersex traits have the right NOT to undergo sex assignment treatment
  • offer redress to intersex people who have been sterilised without evidence of medical or legal necessity
  • ensure that intersex children, adults and their families have access to independent community-based support


Research published in 2016 shows 18% of people born with atypical sex characteristics fail to complete secondary school, compared to an Australian average of 2%. This has been attributed to bullying on the basis of physical sex characteristics and assumptions about identities, the impact of medical “normalising” interventions during puberty, and a lack of inclusive curricula and support in schools.

We ask federal parties to address these issues.


The Sex Discrimination Act, amended in 2013, offers protection on grounds of intersex status, distinct from protection on grounds of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. However, it contains an exemption permitting discrimination on grounds of intersex status in competitive sport, with consequences for the participation of intersex women in all sport. This disproportionately affects women born with intersex traits who were assigned female at birth, with international evidence of systemic human rights abuses.

We ask an incoming government to ensure that intersex women are protected from discrimination in sport.

Sex/gender recognition

We note that much reporting on sex and gender recognition issues relating to intersex people assumes that all intersex people seek changes to identification documents, and/or assumes that intersex people are a third sex. Neither is accurate.

We ask for improved access to identification documents for people who need to change sex classification, including the removal of a requirement for medical certification.

We also ask for the removal of sex/gender classifications from official documents except where there is a legitimate policy requirement.

We support efforts to improve data collection in respectful ways that acknowledge that intersex people have many different ways of understanding our bodies, our sexes and our genders.


In recent research, 48% of people born with atypical sex characteristics self-described as heterosexual and 8.4% self-described as transgender. 12% of respondents were recognised as married in Australia, with a further 14% separated/divorced and 1% widowed. Importantly, 8% have married overseas but their relationships are not legally recognised as marriages in Australia. We support changes to the Marriage Act to recognise those marriages, and ensure that all intersex people are able to marry in Australia.

More information

Co-chairs Morgan Carpenter (0405 615 942) and Tony Briffa (0418 398 906) can provide comment on request. Both co-chairs can be contacted via info@oii.org.au

Intersex issues in the 2013 federal election
Intersex: Stories and Statistics from Australia
Statement of the Third International Intersex forum