ACT introduces Australian-first protections for intersex children

The Australian Capital Territory has today passed Australia’s first laws protecting intersex people from unconsented medical procedures.

The legislation will protect people with variations in sex characteristics from harmful and unnecessary medical interventions as children by placing restrictions on treatment to alter sex characteristics without personal consent.

These restrictions will exclude emergencies or authorisation by an independent assessment board. The board will be created with committed comprised of intersex people with lived experience alongside medical, ethical and psychosocial experts. The laws will also introduce offences and other regulatory provisions to enforce these changes.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr fought back tears when speaking on the legislation in parliament to commend the bill.

“It’s incumbent [on] all members in this parliament, who care about the autonomy, consent and safety of people with variations in sex characteristics and I thank them for their support of this bill today,” Chief Minister Barr said of the bill he himself introduced.

“We look forward to the detailed debate, where I will hold it together better than I have just done.”

The action follows long-term advocacy from intersex individuals and groups, as well as broader LGBTIQA+ advocacy groups, who have all welcomed today’s action.

Long-time advocate and Executive Director of Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA) called this a “wonderful and transformative moment.”

“This legislation promises to ensure this, implementing effective oversight and appropriate penalties. And it is accompanied by much needed investment in psychosocial support,” Carpenter said.

“Thank you so much for the leadership of the ACT Government and their engagement with all stakeholders. We look forward to deepening our collaboration with government and community organisations to ensure its success.

“This is a model for other jurisdictions, and we call on other states and territories to adopt similar reforms.”

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown adds that it is time for other states and territories to follow the ACT’s lead.

“Every intersex person in Australia should be able to grow up to live a full and dignified life in which they decide what happens to their own bodies,” Brown said.

“It’s now time for the rest of the country to commit to protecting future generations of intersex Australians from medical procedures that can be deferred until they are old enough to decide for themselves.

“The fact not a single MP from any party in the ACT voted against this bill shows how important these protections are and that the time is right for reform in all other states and territories.”

One of the most high-profile intersex Australians, the world’s first openly intersex mayor Tony Briffa, has also commented the ACT Government.

“Infants and children born with intersex variations in Australia continue to have unnecessary, irreversible hormonal and surgical interventions performed them, like surgeries to reduce the size of a baby girl’s clitoris or to remove healthy gonads.

“I call on all other states and territories to follow the ACT’s lead and protect the rights of all intersex people in medical settings.”

Currently, Victoria is the only state or territory besides the ACT who have made commitments in this space. In October 2021, the Australian Human Rights Commission urged all Australian governments to implement measures that prevent harmful medical interventions on intersex people without personal consent.

OIP Staff

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