Intersex Torture Must Cease

The Intersex Series, #2

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council on 14 September 2015 highlighted rights violations perpetrated on those who are intersex. (See What Is Intersex?)

Al Hussein’s findings are reported in an article by Arvind Narrain: “The Right Not To Be Mutilated: Intersex People and the Quest for Justice.” I’ll include a few quotes here, but it was so good, you should read the original article.

Far too few of us are aware of the specific human rights violations faced by millions of intersex people. Because their bodies do not comply with typical definitions of male or female, intersex children and adults are frequently subjected to forced sterilization and other unnecessary and irreversible surgery, and suffer discrimination in schools, workplaces and other settings.

During a meeting focused on ending human rights violations against intersex people, the office of the High Commissioner determined that intersex issues are unique, specific, and not simply add-ons to existing LGBT issues.

While variations of sex characteristics are natural, human cultures treat this natural diversity as a problem. Within human society, this natural diversity of sex characteristics is forced into the gender binary of male and female. It is this imperative of human society, to treat sexual diversity as a problem, which becomes the root cause of the great suffering imposed by society on those whose sex characteristics do not conform to rigid notions of male and female.

Those who don’t fit into the strict categories of male or female are classified as “suffering from a form of pathology.” Once classified, they’re game for surgical modification—often promoted by doctors so that children “fit into a specific sex.” Although such surgery is medically unnecessary, parents often consent to have their child operated on for “psycho-social reasons.”

This amounts to mutilating infants and children simply to make the parents more comfortable because the doctor said it would.

Intersex activists make the point, that to subject children to genital mutilation—which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture [PDF] considers a form of torture—so that society is not discomfited, is an unconscionable suffering, which is inflicted on children born with the intersex condition.

Narrain points out that “intersex mutilation is not even acknowledged as a rights violation in almost all parts of the world.”

This torture must stop.

God the Creator makes infinite variety, and it’s all beautiful. No children should be forced to undergo the scalpel before they’re able to make their own decision about what, if anything, they want to do with their own bodies.

It’s time for us to refrain from such categorical judgments and accept those who are born toward the middle of the sex spectrum. There are more than two colors in the rainbow of human sexuality. We must ensure that everyone’s light can shine.

More information:
What Is Intersex?

Source: Arvind Narrain: “The Right Not To Be Mutilated: Intersex People and the Quest for Justice” at JURIST – Professional Commentary, Oct. 14, 2015, http://jurist.org/hotline/2015/10/arvind-narrain-intersex-justice.php. Accessed Dec. 13, 2018

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