The ACT moves forward with protective legislation

We congratulate the ACT government for moving ahead with public consultation legislation to protect the human rights of people with innate variations of sex characteristics in medical settings. IHRA and other health and community organisations have worked with the ACT government over several years, leading to a formal commitment to reform in 2019, drafting of briefing papers, and contributions to consultation processes.

These reforms are also accompanied by other actions to promote the health and human rights of people with innate variations of sex characteristics, including much needed commitments to better resource support for individuals, parents and families.

Morgan Carpenter, bioethicist and executive director of IHRA, states:

This is a historic moment. For more than twenty years, the intersex movement in Australia has sought legal reforms to protect people with innate variations of sex characteristics in medical settings. The persistence of so-called ‘normalising’ interventions, intending to make the bodies of children with intersex variations fit gender stereotypes, has been our most intractable issue. Working with ourselves and other intersex advocates, the ACT government made a formal commitment to reform in 2019, and this thoughtful, carefully considered draft legislation is the product of years of productive engagement. To the maximum extent possible, it aims to ensure that all of us can make our own decisions about our own bodies. Alongside it, we anticipate increased resourcing for peer and family support.

We warmly thank the Chief Minister and his staff for their work. We warmly thank the human rights institutions, allied community organisations and medical institutions who have joined our call for reform. We hope that the legislation will be strengthened by this process of public consultation, and we call on all Australian jurisdictions to take the same steps forward.

Cody Smith, senior project officer of IHRA, states:

As an odd kid that grew up in Canberra with unexplained surgical scars and a few too many doctor’s visits, it’s difficult to find the words that capture all the things I feel on a day like today. The first thing that comes to mind is a promise I made to myself that the next child born like me would have better opportunities. A chance to make decisions for themselves and not live with the burden of shame or secrecy. To finally realise this promise brings an overwhelming sense of relief.

There’s a deep sense of pride and joy at being part of the process that produced this groundbreaking work, that it happened here in my home territory. Immense gratitude for all the work that happened before me, and the support of friends, family, and colleagues. A very tangible grief for the children that couldn’t be protected sooner, and for the activists we’ve lost along the way. There’s also optimism and fatigue in equal parts knowing this work also has to happen right across Australia. For now it feels like something worth celebrating.

Read our joint press statement with Equality Australia and A Gender Agenda at:

We will be making additional comment over coming days.

The consultation draft is available online at: