Unconsented intersex surgery seen as torture?

Many intersex children (children born with a “Disorder of Sex Development”, DSD) undergo genital surgery soon after birth or the first years of their life. Because their genitals “don’t fit”, don’t look like they should. Their size or form is too big, too small, too different from what the doctors (and the parents) expect. We are talking at least one or two in every thousand births. The UN just commented on that with some strong recommendations.

In the report of the UN Committee overseeing the Convention Against Torture (CAT) on Germany of th 74th session from October 31 to November 25 this year the Committee elicitly goes into the question genuinely called IGM, Intersex Genital Mutilation. For surgery where there is no medical necessity but a diifferent outlook that doesn’t absolutely hinder development in to a viable adult life, is mutilation. It goes against the principle of protection from medical abuses (Yogyakarta pinciples, # 18)
The UN speaking out against IGM is a great victory for intersex advocates.

This is what the CAT Committee wrote:

“20. The Committee takes note of the information received during the dialogue that the Ethical Council has undertaken to review the reported practices of routine surgical alterations in children born with sexual organs that are not readily categorized as male or female, also called intersex persons, with a view to evaluate and possibly change present practice.
However, the Committee remains concerned at cases where gonads have been removed and cosmetic surgeries of reproductive organs have been performed, implying lifelong hormonal medication, without effective, informed consent of the concerned individuals or their legal guardians, where neither investigation, nor measures of redress have been introduced.

The Committee remains further concerned at the lack of legal provisions providing redress and compensation in such cases (arts. 2, 10, 12, 14 and 16).

The Committee recommends that the State party:

a) Ensure the effective application of legal and medical standards following the best practices of granting informed consent to medical and surgical treatment of intersex people, including the full information, orally and in writing, on the suggested treatment, its justification and alternatives;

b) Undertake investigation of incidents of surgical and other medical treatment of intersex people without effective consent and adopt legal provisions in order to provide redress to the victims of such treatment, including adequate compensation;

c) Educate and train medical and psychological professionals on the range of sexual and related biological and physical diversity; and

d) Properly inform patients and their parents regarding the consequences of unnecessary surgical and other medical interventions for intersex people”

2 thoughts on “Unconsented intersex surgery seen as torture?

  1. James Loewen

    The UN needs to take this a step further and defend the rights of all children, male, female and intersex from any and all genital cutting surgeries.

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