“Intersex” refers to a person born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male, or are born with varying degrees of physical differences in their genitalia.
Usually seen as a medical “syndrome” or “condition” - rather than as a form of anatomical difference - so-called “corrective” genital surgery or gender reassignment surgery is often performed on intersex children without their consent.
The aim is to assign the individual a male or female sexual identity, despite the possibility that this may not correspond with a child’s gender identity as they get older.
These practices violate a child's physical and bodily integrity, their right to protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse (CRC art. 19) and to the highest attainable standard of health (CRC art. 24), and ultimately their survival and development (CRC art. 6).
Other issues that adversely impact intersex children include high levels of discrimination and stigmatisation, an increased prevalence of problematic drug use and self-harm and difficulties around civil registration.
In February 2015, the Committee on the Rights of the Child asserted for the first time that non-consensual intersex surgeries violate physical integrity and constitute a harmful practice during its review of Switzerland (CRC/C/CHE/CO/2-4, paras. 42 & 43).
Below is an evolving list of resources dedicated to debating this issue.
- OII's guide: Standing up for the human rights of intersex people – how can you help? (available in 10 other languages here)
- InterACT's #4intersex website, with many useful ressources to support intersex rights
- InterACT's media guide Covering the intersex community
- Terminology: A critique of the term “intersex(uality)”
- Bodily integrity: CRIN’s policy page on the general principles of bodily integrity
- Consent to medically unnecessary genital surgeries: Discussion paper on setting minimum ages
- Right to consent, or refuse consent, to medical treatment or surgery without parental consent: Discussion paper on setting minimum ages
- Special edition Children in court CRINmail with sections on: Bodily integrity of intersex children, Legal recognition of trans and intersex children
- CRIN’s case study: A question mark on an intersex baby’s medical documents in Kenya nearly condemned a child to life without medical care, schooling or a passport. Challenging the incorrect document, the child’s mother took the case to the Kenyan High Court.
- Submission on children's right to consent in health-related matters: Recent submission to the High-level Working Group on Health & Human Rights of Women, Children & Adolescents.
- The Committee Against Torture addressed this issue in its reviews of several States during its 56th session in its reviews of Austria, Hong Kong and Denmark