Advocacy statements

Human Rights of Intersex Persons

  • Date / 2024
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

 Humanists International

55th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (26 February to 5 April 2024)

General Debate on Item 4

Mr President,

Intersex individuals often face horrifying levels of discrimination, stigma, and violence.[1] These violations occur across various contexts, including medical, educational and workplace settings. As one UN Expert observed, they are “perpetrated against intersex persons with the objective of maintaining the binary of sex by unnecessarily cutting and pasting their bodies into one of the two existing binary moulds.”[2]

Violence against intersex persons can encompass coercive medical interventions without informed consent, psychological trauma from societal rejection, and systemic marginalization. Furthermore, lack of legal recognition and protection is common and exacerbates vulnerability, and can leave intersex persons with limited recourse to seek justice and redress. Intersex infanticide remains a major problem in a number of countries.

States must enact legislation to ban medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures on intersex children. They must protect the autonomy of intersex persons, ensuring their rights to health, physical and mental integrity, freedom from violence and harmful practices, as well as protection from torture and ill-treatment. There is a need for comprehensive legal frameworks, to promote awareness and understanding, and to ensure access to quality health care that respects intersex autonomy and bodily integrity.

Accordingly we very much welcome the Council’s draft resolution on Combating Discrimination, Violence, and Harmful Practices against Intersex Persons.

We also urge Council members not to pathologize or patronize intersex persons, and to use language that respects their reality and autonomy and does not stigmatise or suggest that intersex traits and bodies are defective.

Thank you.

[1] See for example: OHCHR Technical Note on the Human Rights of Intersex People: Human Rights Standards and Good Practices, 2023; OHCHR, Background Note on Human Rights Violations against Intersex People, 2019; ILGA Europe, Standing up for the Rights of Intersex Persons, 2015; Amnesty International, First do no Harm, 2017.

[2] A/76/152, para 15.

Suggested academic reference

'Human Rights of Intersex Persons', Humanists International

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