The 68th CRC session marked the first time ever the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child tackled intersex and IGM practices. In a ground-breaking move the chair grilled the Swiss Government, labeling non-consensual intersex surgery “an issue of physical integrity”, “a kind of violence to children”, and “a harmful practice”.
This first is the result of the ongoing hard work by intersex NGOs and their allies, engaging in the CRC Human Rights Mechanism and filing no less than 4 NGO reports all explicitly criticising IGM practices, resulting in an invitation for a briefing of the Committee on “Intersex Genital Mutilations on a Global Scale” just before the start of the review of Switzerland.
For 22 years, intersex people have been fighting surgical “genital corrections” on children with variations of sex anatomy, which they criticise as Intersex Genital Mutilations (IGM). For 16 years, they have invoked the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since 2008 survivors engage with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, and since 2012 with the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Now, 13 UN bodies as well as the Council of Europe are criticising non-consensual genital surgery and other medically unnecessary interventions on intersex children (CEDAW, CAT, SRH, SRT, WHO, OHCHR, UNICEF, UN Women, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, CRPD, CRC, COE). To this day, Columbia is still the only country worldwide to at least partly restrict IGM practices.
In 2012, the Opinion of the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics (NEK-CNE) was welcomed by intersex organisations around the world – however, to this day the Swiss Federal Government refuses to implement its recommendations.
The replies by the state party to the CRC Chair’s questions were clearly less than satisfactory, a sentiment also expressed by the chair in her closing remarks (>>> Transcript).
Undeviatingly, a spokesperson of the Swiss Federal Office for Justice portrayed “mental risks […] for example in the case of problems with their enrolment in school” as a reasonable justification for cosmetic genital surgery on intersex children – contrary to the recommendations of the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics explicitly criticising unnecessary genital surgery justified by “psychosocial indications” (!!!). Undeviatingly, Switzerland’s reply focused on “child registration“, “gender”, “assigned sex”, “experienced identity” and so on – while dismissing the right to physical integrity highlighted by the chair – culminating in the stick-in-the-mud claim, IGM practices would only be actually wrong if coinciding with a “wrongly assigned sex”.
While in a surprising U-turn Switzerland announced efforts to collect data on intersex surgeries, it soon became obvious so far this was once more done without consultation of intersex organisations, as they learned for the first time of these endeavours during the CRC session in Geneva.
Intersex persons and their organisations are therefore hoping for strong written Concluding Observations for Switzerland by the Committee, due tomorrow Wednesday – and for a holistic general policy to eliminate all IGM practices everywhere.
>>> 2014 CRC NGO Report “Intersex Genital Mutilations” (PDF 3.65 MB)
>>> 2015 CRC Briefing “Intersex Genital Mutilations on a Global Scale” (PDF 3.14 MB)
>>> Transcript: Intersex Q&A during the 68. Session of CRC, Geneva 2015
The international human rights NGO StopIGM.org demands the prohibition of forced genital surgeries on children and adolescents with ‘atypical’ sex anatomy and “Human Rights for Hermaphrodites too!”
Persons concerned shall later decide themselves, if they want surgeries or not, and if yes, which.
Daniela “Nella” Truffer, Markus Bauer
Founding members human rights NGO Zwischengeschlecht.org / StopIGM.org
Mobile +41 (0) 76 398 06 50
Mobile +41 (0) 78 829 12 60
IGM on a Global Scale: 2015 Briefing for UN-CRC
• IGM: A Survivor’s Perspective • Intersex Movement History
• What are IGM Practices? • What are Variations of Sex Anatomy?
• IGM and Human Rights • Conclusion: IGM as a Harmful Practice
>>> Download PDF (3.14 MB) >>> Table of Contents
Intersex Genital Mutilations • 17 Most Common Forms
Human Rights Violations Of Children With Variations Of Sex Anatomy
IGM – Historical Overview • What is Intersex? • How Common are IGMs?
>>> Download PDF (3.65 MB) >>> Table of Contents
UPDATE 04.02.0215: The Concluding Observations (–> paras. 42-43) are here!!!
“[M]edically unnecessary surgical and other procedures on intersex children” are explicitly mentioned in section “E. Violence against children”, subsection “Harmful practices”. The Committee, referring to the 2012 recommendations of the Swiss Ethics Commission (NEK-CNE), explicitly “urge[s]” Switzerland to “ensure that no-one is subjected to unnecessary medical or surgical treatment during infancy or childhood, guarantee bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination to children concerned, and provide families with intersex children with adequate counselling and support”! THANK YOU!!!