California has become the first state to officially recognise the rights of intersex people in a new piece of legislation. The Senate Concurrent Resolution 110 (SCR-110) is a first for intersex rights and was passed by Democratic Senator Scott Wiener and was sponsored by interAct Advocates for Intersex Youth and Equality California. The resolution’s aim is to “foster the well-being of children born with variations of sex characteristics through the enactment of policies and procedures that ensure individualized, multidisciplinary care”.
While the resolution does not prohibit the practice of medically unnecessary genital surgery on intersex babies, it does recognise that “children should be free to choose whether to undergo life-altering surgeries that irreversibly – and sometimes irreparably – cause harm”. Senator Wiener is hopeful that the introduction of SCR-110 will urge the medical profession to “delay unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex babies”.
The passing of the resolution marks the first time a state has gone on record to recognise and support the rights of intersex people. Other states, – Indiana, Nevada and Texas – have begun to campaign for intersex rights on a legislative level, but California is the first to pass a resolution successfully. Kimberly Zieselman, the executive director for interAct, said: “It’s the very first time that a US legislative body has recognised that intersex children deserve bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions about their own bodies, just like everyone else’”.
It is estimated that up to 1.7% of the world’s population is born with genetic, chemical, or anatomical features that fall somewhere between what is typically identified as male or female. Since the 1950’s, doctors have performed “corrective” surgeries on infants with ambiguous genitalia and sex characteristics. These procedures may cause a number of harmful consequences including scarring, chronic pain, urinary incontinence, loss of sexual sensation or function, psychological damage and incorrect gender assignment. Last year, Amnesty International revealed that in Denmark and Germany, babies born with atypical sex characteristics face up to five surgeries before they turn one. The United Nations has called the practice “a human rights violation that occurs without the informed consent of young patients”.
Irish law does not prohibit medically unnecessary surgeries on babies, and intersex people are offered very limited protection under Irish legislation. In a review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015, Moninne Griffith, executive director of BeLonG To, urged increased measures in order to protect intersex people. The review recommended that “all measures taken to improve access to gender recognition, both with regard to age and gender identity, should also provide access for intersex individuals”.
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