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Senate Inquiry reveals  forced surgery on intersex children

Senate Inquiry reveals forced surgery on intersex children

LAST UPDATED // Wednesday, 25 September 2013 11:24 Written by // Cec Busby

Submissions to the Senate Inquiry on involuntary or coerced sterilisation have revealed that ‘normalising’ surgeries on intersex children often occur without adequate consultation or follow up.

Organisation Intersex Australia (OII Australia) has told of two recent submissions by the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group (APEG) and the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne (RCH) to the Senate Inquiry on Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation, that genital “normalising” surgeries on infants, such as clitoral “reduction”, take place without adequate long term follow-up.

The report also revealed that surgeries often occur without adequate data on outcomes and without adequate data on the timing of surgery.

An earlier submission to the inquiry tabled in June by  the Victorian Health Department cites surgeries as often taking place due to “family distress”, a parent’s desire for their child to grow up to have ‘normal’ prospects in forming sexual relations and to “eliminate cultural disadvantage”.

According to the Royal Children's Hospital, 10-15 genital reconstructive surgeries take place each year on children as young as two years of age.. Other institutions around Australia undertake similar surgeries.

Both the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group (APEG) and the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne (RCH) have acknowledged that there is a lack of evidence in regards to good surgical outcomes for the surgery and that the few studies that have been conducted have conflicting results in terms of the cosmetic, sexual, or psychological effects of the surgery. In particular the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group raised concerns regarding sexual function and sensation.

Current international guidelines recommend long-term follow-up of intersex children who have early surgery. This does not occur in Australia, as there is no co-ordinated registry regarding the management and outcomes for intersex people.

A major concern in medical management, both in Australasia and internationally, is with the deficiencies in  psychosocial support, particularly as the young intersex person becomes older.

There is also currently no data to support surgery in early infancy over another (e.g. surgery in late infancy, mid-childhood, early adolescence or late adolescence).

"No genital surgery is life-preserving,'' Gina Wilson, president of OII Australia told The Age. ''It's cosmetic and normalising.''

Andie Hider, vice-president and medical liaison representative for the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group of Australia, said: "Unless there is significant impairment that will cause ongoing health concerns until it is rectified, I don't think there is a justifiable reason to operate."

OII Australia has made their own submission to the Inquiry.

“In our submissions we call for an end to appearance-related “normalisation” surgeries on infants and children. We believe that clitoris and phallus appearance and size should be considered irrelevant to our childhoods,” says Morgan from OII Australia.

“We make a variety of recommendations in favour of fully informed, personal consent, bodily autonomy, and support for community organisations to address structural imbalances.”

Read the latest submission from OII Australia

A Senate report is due at the end of July.


Cec Busby

Cec Busby

Cec Busby is the news editor of SX and online editor of GayNewsNetwork.com.au

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