Australian Human Rights Commission Pleads to End Intersex Surgeries for Children

Australian Human Rights Commission Pleads to End Intersex Surgeries for Children
Photo: Daily Beast/ Elizabeth Brockway

Roos Willemijn Craanen 

International Justice and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

In a recent report, the Australian Human Right Commission expressed grave concern at the use of ‘intersex surgeries’ for children whose sex characteristics are considered ‘atypical.’ For example, children born with hermaphrodite features frequently undergo surgery to remove one set of sex characteristics. Other examples of intersex surgeries focus on the increase or decrease in the size of the clitoris, penis or vagina. This type of surgery is generally not medically-necessary and the child in question often does not get a say in whether he or she wants the procedure. In part this is a result of the child’s age, but also because parents and doctors fear that the child’s intersex status may lead to social exclusion and an inability to fit in. However, as accurately pointed out by the Australian Human Rights Commission, these surgeries can be harmful to the child by the loss of sexual sensation, the development of one’s sexual identity, scarring, sterialisation and psychological trauma. Henceforth, the Commission calls on Australia to minimise the use of these surgeries “to avoid serious harm and the risk of harm cannot be mitigated in another less intrusive way” (Human Rights Watch 2021). Time will tell how Australia’s legislature will respond to the Commission’s report.

Further reading and source:

Pearson. E and Knight. K. (18 October 2021). Australia Moves Closer to Ending Harmful Intersex Surgeries. Human Rights Watch.