UN Committee against Torture: Australia must respond to list of issues

Every few years, the UN Committee against Torture reviews the performance of member states against the obligations of the Convention Against Torture.

In June this year, OII Australia made a submission to the Committee to help it prepare a “List of Issues Prior to Reporting”, for the government to respond to.

The Committee has now issued an advance unedited version of the List of Issues for the government to address. It includes a paragraph on Australia’s obligations towards intersex people, and others who also experience involuntary or coerced sterilisation:

24. In the light of the Committee’s concluding observations (para. 20), please provide information on the efforts made towards prohibiting the use of sterilisation without the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned in all Australian jurisdictions. Please also clarify whether non-urgent and irreversible medical or surgical treatment aimed at determining the sex of a child is permitted and performed on children and how does the State party guarantee that full, free and informed consent of the persons concerned is ensured. In this regard, please indicate what action has been taken by the State party to implement the recommendations of a 2013 Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia. In addition, please indicate which criminal or civil remedies are available for people who have undergone involuntary sterilisation or unnecessary and irreversible medical or surgical treatment aimed at determining their sex when they were children and whether these remedies are subject to any statute of limitations.

This is significant for raising the issue of reparations, as well as actions to prevent “involuntary sterilisation or unnecessary and irreversible medical or surgical treatment aimed at determining” sex.

A government response to the Senate inquiry largely placed the onus on States and Territories, and on flawed and ignored voluntary guidelines. The evidence put to a recent Family Court case, Re Carla, highlights the urgency of federal action on these issues. Unnecessary sterilising and appearance-related genital so-called “enhancements” still continue on infants, children and adolescents with intersex traits. No attention has yet been given to reparations.

More information

Thanks to Zwischengeschlecht.org for monitoring Treaty Body publications.