The Victorian Government has published a commitment to protect the human rights of intersex people in medical settings, and promote the health and wellbeing of intersex people. UNE lecturer Aileen Kennedy, is an expert in health law, particularly law relating to sex and gender. She has been involved in the process leading up to this policy commitment. Aileen is on the board of Intersex Human Rights Australia.
Currently, people with intersex variations in Australia are routinely subjected to harmful and unnecessary elective procedures without their personal consent, with lifelong effects. Most genital surgeries and sterilising procedures are performed when intersex people are still infants. Most such surgeries are not urgent and do not advance the physical health of the individual. It is done to create bodies that appear more masculine or feminine. It is not uncommon for the bodies of intersex minors to be surgically altered to be more feminine, but the child ultimately identifies as male (or vice versa). Such irreversible cosmetic procedures should be deferred until the person is old enough to decide for themselves. This is what the Victorian plan aims to achieve – to defer unnecessary irreversible interventions until the person can consent.
Intersex advocates have worked tirelessly to secure this much needed commitment. We commend Minister Martin Foley and the Victorian government for taking this very welcome step. This commitment is due to be followed by extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders, including intersex advocates and peer supports, parents, disability advocates, human rights experts and doctors.