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Australia: New report urges significant changes to protect human rights of intersex people

Graphic: Orchids

New AHRC report makes significant recommendations to protect the human rights of people born with variations in sex characteristics.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has released a new report which makes significant recommendations to protect the human rights of people born with variations in sex characteristics. 

The report Ensuring health and bodily integrity: towards a human rights approach for people born with variations in sex characteristics, makes 12 recommendations for a human rights-based approach to decision-making on medical interventions. 

“This report is the culmination of over three years of extensive consultations, including with people born with variations in sex characteristics, who have strongly advocated for their right to life, bodily autonomy and integrity,” said Commission President Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM. 

“The Commission’s report reinforces the notion that people born with variations in sex characteristics have a right to make decisions about any medical intervention on their own bodies. 

“This includes children and younger people – who deserve to have their views heard, and to be empowered to participate in decision making regarding any medical procedures on their bodies,” Professor Croucher said. 

The report’s 12 recommendations aim to ensure that only medical interventions that are medically necessary may occur without the consent of people under the age of 18, consistent with international human rights law.  

The Commission recommends legislative reform of oversight mechanisms by: 

  • Establishing Independent Panels with responsibility to decide whether to authorise medical interventions in respect of children born with variations in sex characteristics; 
  • Defining the circumstances in which such interventions on children without personal consent may be authorised, which should be limited to circumstances of medical necessity; and 
  • Recognising that in emergency situations there should be an expedited authorisation process or, where this still does not provide time to deal with the emergency, a requirement for subsequent notification of the Independent Panel. 

In addition, the Commission recommends the development of new National Guidelines to promote the best standards of clinical care. These Guidelines would also include guidance on: 

Obtaining informed consent and ensuring affected children and younger people are involved in decisions;  

  • The application of human rights principles in determining whether a medical intervention is a medical necessity, and  
  • Requirements for independent authorisation of certain medical interventions. 

To find out more, visit the Commission’s website

Date: 18 October 2021

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. Orchids - Australian Human Rights Commission