Human Rights Commission Launches Major Intersex Consultation


Intersex advocates

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called for submissions from intersex people on how to best protect their human rights.

Intersex people are born with characteristics that don’t fit the typical definitions of “female” or “male”, and physical variations in intersex people can include chromosomes, hormones and anatomy.

Nearly two-percent of the population is born with intersex traits – similar to the number of people born with red hair – but young intersex people often undergo irreversible and unnecessary surgeries that have the potential to cause lifelong health issues and psychological harm.

The AHRC is seeking intersex people’s “personal experiences of medical interventions and suggestions for changes to clinical practices and legal frameworks.”

Advocates from Intersex Human Rights Australia have welcomed the consultation, and said there is currently no legislation or national guidelines on the management of intersex variations in Australia.

Children born with these characteristics are often subject to medical intervention, including hormone therapy to align their bodies with their presumed gender identity, and so-called “normalising” surgery on infants’ genitalia. Advocates say these medical interventions are often equivalent to involuntary or coerced sterilisation.

The community can get involved either through written submissions to the AHRC or face-to-face consultation.

The AHRC is accepting submissions by August 31 and in-person consultation must be arranged by August 3. For more information, visit Intersex Human Rights Australia’s website here.

Last year, a group of intersex advocates (pictured) came together in Sydney to publish the Darlington Statement, an outline of priorities for the intersex community.

The statement calls on government and clinical institutions to respect the human rights and bodily autonomy, greater respect for diversity and identity, and for intersex rights to be recognised in Australian anti-discrimination legislation.

“Current forms of oversight of medical interventions affecting people born with variations of sex characteristics have proven to be inadequate,” the statement reads.