Intersex human rights

Intersex South Australians must be empowered to make their own medical decisions about their own bodies.

Intersex people are born with innate sex characteristics that do not fit medical norms for female or male bodies. 

Like all South Australians, intersex people deserve to make medical decisions about their bodies that are right for them.

Yet the current medical model in South Australia stigmatises intersex people by treating intersex variations as a “problem” to be “fixed” or “erased”.

This often results in intersex people, especially children, being subjected to unnecessary medical interventions, such as genital surgeries, without their consent. 

Such surgeries are usually performed for cosmetic reasons to “normalize” the appearance of an intersex person’s genitals and make genitalia look more male or female, rather than to treat a medical problem. 

These surgeries can be painful, traumatic and cause long-term physical and psychological harm, with long-term complications including incontinence, loss of sexual function, loss of sexual sensation, loss of fertility, nerve damage and scarring. 

They can also lead to long-term psychological harm, including depression, anxiety, and gender dysphoria, with many intersex people reporting feelings of shame, isolation, and trauma from being subjected to non-consensual surgeries that they did not fully understand or consent to.

What does SA Pride on this issue look like?

In October 2021 the Australian Human Rights Commission released their report Ensuring health and bodily integrity: towards a human rights approach for people born with variations in sex characteristics.

In the lead up to the SA 2022 Election, the now Labor Government confirmed their opposition to forced medical interventions without the consent of patients and committed to working with SA Health to review the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s ‘Ensuring health and bodily integrity’ report.

We join Intersex Human Rights Australia and Equality Australia in calling on all State and Territory governments, including the South Australian Government to enact the recommendations of this report and:

  • End unnecessary medical procedures modifying the sex characteristics of intersex people without their personal consent; 
  • Establish an independent body, including members with lived experience, to oversee decisions where medical procedures are necessary but the person is unable to provide consent;
  • Ensure intersex people are provided with fair and accurate information and support to be able to make fully informed decisions about their own healthcare;
  • Fund and provide access to affirming peer support, counselling and other intersex-led resources to ensure intersex people and their families are supported at every step in their journey;
  • Address stigma and discrimination through public and targeted education initiatives;
  • Redress the injustices of the past and provide support for healing.

By doing so, we can protect the rights of intersex South Australians, prevent harm and promote greater understanding and acceptance of intersex people in our State.

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