The Senate’s Community Affairs Committee has announced that the final report of its inquiry on the involuntary and coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities will now be split into two reports. The first report, in relation to people with disabilities, will be released on the scheduled date of 17 July. A second report, focusing on intersex people, will now be published around two weeks later, around the end of July (update: likely in late September).
We are advised that this is due to a late influx of relevant data on the medical normalisation of intersex people. Amongst those late submissions are reports by the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group (APEG), OII Australia and the National LGBTI Health Alliance responses, and a small number of personal submissions.
With the passing of the Sex Discrimination Amendment, and guidelines on sex and gender recognition, this is the major outstanding human rights issue facing intersex people in Australia. Alongside anti-discrimination protection, this is the most significant issue for our community.
Contrasting policy and procedures on Female Genital Mutilation and intersex surgical “normalisation”
Two recent submissions contrast policy and procedures on female genital mutilation (FGM) and on intersex infants and children.
The third OII Australia submission presents data on the rationales for surgery on intersex infants, such as “mitigating the risks of gender identity confusion”, “family distress” “cultural disadvantage” and “reduced opportunities for marriage”. These are all rationales in medical literature and decision-making frameworks – and they are also conceivably rationales in favour of female genital mutilation in societies where that is the norm.
The third National LGBTI Health Alliance submission presents comparative data on the form of such surgeries:
Procedures that are routinely performed on intersex young people in Australia fit the WHO definition of Types 1, 2 and 4 Female Genital Mutilation.
These procedures are criminalised and acknowledged to have no therapeutic benefit when performed on young people who are classified as ‘female’ in Australia.
The Sex Discrimination Act (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) 2013 prohibits discrimination on the basis of intersex status. Based on this legislation, we ask the Committee to recommend identical criminal sanctions against medically unnecessary “normalising” surgical procedures on intersex young people that are being mischaracterised as “therapeutic” by Australian medical professionals.
These procedures are standard medical practice in Australia and elsewhere today. In an anonymous online survey of current practice in feminizing surgery for congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) among 162 specialists (60% paediatric surgeons or paediatric urologists) attending the IVth World Congress of the International Society of Hypospadias and Disorders of the Sex Development (ISHID) (sic) in 2011, 78% of surgeons reported that they preferred conducting early surgery before the age of two years. Most conduct surgical alteration of the clitoris, vagina and labia. Most surgeons reported that their techniques include surgical removal of clitoral erectile tissue (Yankovic, Cherian, Steven, Mathur, & Cuckow, 2013).
We hope that the Senate Inquiry will consider the human rights issues apparent in the differential treatment of intersex infants, compared to the criminalisation of Female Genital Mutilation.
Download the Inquiry reports on involuntary or coerced sterilisation
- Our initial thoughts on the Senate report, “Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia”, 25 October 2013
- Intersex report: Download report on the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people, 25 October 2013
- People with disabilities report: Download report on the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities, 17 July 2013
- German proposals for a “third gender” on birth certificates miss the mark
- Clinicians acknowledge lack of justification for surgeries on intersex infants in Australia a compilation of quotes from submissions by the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group and the Royal Children’s Hospital, 15 July 2013
- Update on Senate Inquiry on involuntary and coerced sterilisation 13 July 2013, including data on Female Genital Mutilation
OII Australia submissions
- About our fifth, concluding, submission to the Inquiry
- Our fifth submission, dated 29 August 2013 (PDF) a concluding submission, taking into account recent developments
- About our fourth submission a response to the submission by the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group, and new data from the Council of Europe
- Fourth submission, dated 30 June 2013 (PDF)
- About our third submission focusing on the rationales for involuntary surgery on intersex infants, and comparisons with Female Genital Mutilation; also presenting information on the M.C. legal case in the US and the 2005 City of San Francisco human rights investigation
- Third submission, dated 3 June 2013 (PDF)
- On our second submission which focused on a case detailed by the Chief Justice of the Family Court, but also the new Victorian Health Department report, and the Senate’s report on the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill
- Second submission, dated 8 March 2013 (PDF)
- About our first submission
- First OII Australia submission, dated 15 February 2013 (PDF)
AISSGA and National LGBTI Health Alliance submissions
- AISSGA submission, dated 12 March 2013 (PDF)
- Third National LGBTI Health Alliance submission, dated 9 July 2013 (PDF)
- Second National LGBTI Health Alliance submission, dated 15 April 2013 (PDF)
- First National LGBTI Health Alliance submission, dated 12 March 2013 (PDF)
- Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group (APEG), dated 27 June 2013 (PDF)
- Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), dated 10 July 2013 (PDF)
- Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria, dated 13 September 2013 (PDF)
- Ms Diana Bryant AO, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, first submission dated 22 February 2013 (PDF)
- Ms Diana Bryant AO, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, second submission dated 2 September 2013 (PDF)
Documents tabled by OII Australia
- Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics, ‘On the management of differences of sex development’ (PDF)
- Anne Tamar-Mattis (Advocates for Informed Choice), ‘Report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Medical Treatment of People with Intersex Conditions as a Human Rights Violation’ (PDF)
- Victoria, Department of Health, ‘Decision-making principles for the care of infants, children and adolescents with intersex conditions’ (PDF)
- OII Australia, ‘Response to Victorian Health Department framework document’ (PDF)
- National LGBTI Health Alliance policy statement on the Victorian Department of Health approach to intersex young people (PDF)
- City and County of San Francisco, Report of a 2005 Human Rights Investigation into the medical “normalization” of intersex people (PDF)
- All submissions to the Senate Inquiry on involuntary sterilisation
- Terms of reference for the Senate Inquiry
- Transcript of the public oral hearing on intersex issues on 28 March 2013 (HTML and PDF) witnesses represented OII Australia, AISSGA and the National LGBTI Health Alliance
- Article on the public hearing of the Senate Inquiry on involuntary sterilisation
- Opening statement at the Senate hearing on involuntary or coerced sterilisation, 29 March 2013
- Press coverage of the intersex aspects of the Senate Inquiry, by The Age newspaper, 20 June 2013