Intersex advocates address findings of Senate Committee into involuntary sterilisation
The findings from the Senate Committee Report into the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia have been released. The report recommends clear national guidelines to oversee treatment of intersex people by the medical community.
Intersex advocacy groups welcome the balanced approach of the senators on the committee and the move away from viewing intersex as a disorder.
Bonnie Hart, president of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) Support Group Australia said the group was happy with the finding that genetic diversity is not a ‘problem’.
"The AIS Support Group Australia is happy that the committee has identified ‘intersex’ as the most acceptable term to describe our state of being within social and political landscapes and that the term 'differences of sexual development' be implemented within health environments.
“The committee has seen fit to state in conclusion ‘that genetic diversity is not a problem in itself’ mirroring our view that there is no inherent ‘disorder’ associated with being intersex.”
The Senate report also urged a legal oversight committee to oversee surgeries on intersex infants, who were unable to consent to surgeries.
However the AIS Support Group were concerned this did not go far enough towards protecting the rights of intersex children and are calling for a moratorium of all non-essential surgeries.
“We welcome the recommendations made by the committee for legal oversight of surgical treatments of intersex people who are unable to fully consent,” said Hart. “We are however concerned that with the stated lack of coherent long-term research in this field and the absence of ‘evidence to show that there are poor clinical or social outcomes from not assigning a sex to intersex infants’, that tribunals and courts may continue to permit irreversible medical interventions on intersex infants based on perceived psychosocial rationales.
“For this reason any court involvement in the decision making process would need to adhere to strict guidelines established with the maintenance of the intersex person’s human rights as it cornerstone.”
Morgan Carpenter, President of OII Australia agreed legal scrutiny was welcomed but it needed to be guided by human rights frameworks and guidelines to protect both the child and the future adult.
“It is essential that future court involvement be shaped by human rights considerations, informed by national guidelines, with the participation of the child, family, and support organisations,” said Carpenter.
“Guidelines must ensure the best protection of the rights of the child and future adult. Guidelines and national standards need to be human rights based, not simply medical in character, and they must be shaped with involvement from the community."
Carpenter said the Senate committee was impressed with the professionalism of intersex community organisations. However Carpenter suggested inclusion of intersex organisations in the policy development process was essential, as was funding for these organisations.
“We are still not equal partners - in the policy development process, the review and evaluation of guidance, or even in providing basic support to intersex people and our families. We remain unfunded. said Carpenter.
"Everything that we do is a measure of our commitment and concern but, still, all the work that we do is in our spare time. This urgently needs to change.”
Hart ifor her part s encouraged by the recommendation to adopt clear national guidelines for medical treatment or intersex people.
“The recommendation towards clear national guidelines to oversee the treatment of intersex people with the medical system is encouraging and welcomed. Such frameworks may have the potential to provide clinicians and parents the confidence in their actions to provide the best possible care of intersex infants and ensure adequate access to grievance processes, if needed, for all parties involved."