Intersex is an umbrella term for people born with a
reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t appear to fit the
general definitions of male and female. This can include
atypical genitals, gonads or chromosomes.
Co-executive director of Organisation Intersex International
Australia, Morgan Carpenter, told BuzzFeed News the statement
was a “huge” and “very significant” development for the
“It’s the first time that anything like this has happened,
where organisations have gotten together and reached a common
platform in Australia and New Zealand,” he said. “This will be
guiding our work for the next few years.”
The statement sets out a number of priorities and calls to
action for the intersex community in the areas of human rights
and legal reform; health and wellbeing; peer support; allies;
and education, awareness and employment.
A significant part of the statement is the call to criminalise
deferrable medical interventions performed on infants and
children that alter sex characteristics.
This can include surgery to make genitalia look less ambiguous
– for instance, a clitoridectomy – or hormone treatment to
prompt the development of secondary sex characteristics such as
breasts or an Adam’s apple.
A 2016 survey of 272 intersex Australians found a majority of
intersex people who had undergone medical treatment received no
information on the option of declining and deferring treatment,
while one fifth said they were given “no information at all”.
The statement calls for human rights based oversight mechanisms
before such decisions are made.
“It’s not just us saying this, but the UN and many other
institutions describe these interventions as harmful practices,
forms of torture, ill-treatment and abuse,” Carpenter said.
“We hope we can use the statement to encourage the Australian
government to respond properly to these forms of abuse.”
The comprehensive statement also calls for an end to sex/gender
classification on birth certificates and asks for advisory
bodies to develop appropriate, human rights based standards of
care for intersex people.
Another section recognises the importance of peer support in
the intersex community.
“No intersex person or parent of an intersex child should feel
they are alone, irrespective of their bodily variation or the
language they use,” it reads.
Carpenter said there was significant stigma and lack of
understanding around people who are intersex.
“Research published last year showed 18% of people with
intersex variations don’t finish school,” he said.
“That can be down to bullying – we’re too tall, too short,
we’re developing too slowly, we’re developing in ways that
don’t reach society’s expectations. This is one way stigma is
manifest, with life-long effects.”