The federal Senate’s Community Affairs References Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia, and now also including the sterilisation and sexual health of intersex people.

The terms of reference for the inquiry were updated on 15 February to include:

2. Current practices and policies relating to the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people, including:

(a) sexual health and reproductive issues; and

(b) the impacts on intersex people.

Our submission has now been published and is available here (PDF, direct download).

In our submission we note that:

Intersex people are medicalised, stigmatised and suffer discrimination due to our distinctive biological characteristics. Intersex variations affect perceptions of our realness as men or women, and society still generally requires people to live and identify as male or female. As a result, intersex bodies do not meet societal expectations and intersex people experience homophobia and prejudice. Cultural, familial and medical attitudes towards our differences from sex norms govern which sex we are assigned, and what surgical and other medical interventions will be made to ensure we conform to those norms. Medical interventions seek to erase intersex differences.

We also note that members of OII have experienced non-consensual medical intervention.

Members of OII Australia have a range of medical diagnoses, including Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, 47,XXY (often diagnosed as Klinefelter Syndrome), Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and other related conditions.

Every individual member of OII Australia has experienced some form of non-consensual medical intervention, including the following:

  • Pressure to conform to gender norms and to be a “real man” or “real woman”.
  • Involuntary gonadectomy (sterilisation) and clitorectomy (clitoris removal or reduction)
    as an infant, child or adolescent.
  • Medical and familial pressure to take hormone treatment.
  • Medical and familial pressure to undertake genital “normalisation” surgery.
  • Surgical intervention that went outside the terms of consent, including surgery that
    was normalising without consent.
  • Disclosure of non-relevant medical data to third parties without consent.

We arrive at a number of medical, legal and community support recommendations. Our recommendations for medical protocols include the following principles:

  1. Medical intervention should not assume crisis in our difference, nor normalisation as a goal.
  2. Medical, and in particular surgical, interventions must have a clear ethical basis, supported by evidence of long term benefit.
  3. Data must be recorded on intersex births, assignments of sex of rearing, and of surgical interventions.
  4. Medical interventions should not be based on psychosocial adjustment or genital appearance.
  5. Medical intervention should be deferred wherever possible until the patient is able to freely give full and informed consent; this is known as “Gillick competence”.
  6. Necessary medical intervention on minors should preserve the potential for different life paths and identities until the patient is old enough to consent.
  7. The framework for medical intervention should not infantilise intersex, failing to recognise that we become adults, or that we have health needs as adults.
  8. The framework for medical intervention must not pathologise intersex through the use of stigmatising language.
  9. Medical protocols must mandate continual dialogue with intersex organisations.

Download the Inquiry reports on involuntary or coerced sterilisation

Recent developments

OII Australia submissions

AISSGA and National LGBTI Health Alliance submissions

Clinician submissions

Legal submissions

Documents tabled by OII Australia

More information