26 September 2023

New laws to protect intersex people

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The ACT has passed Australian-first laws banning unnecessary and irreversible medical procedures for intersex people.

Welcoming the passage of the Variations in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the legislation represented the first time an Australian Government had acted to meet the recommendations of multiple international human rights bodies in relation to intersex human rights.

“For people who have variations in sex characteristics, this Bill will uphold their ability to make their own decisions about non-essential medical treatments that affect their bodies, once they have capacity to do so,” Mr Barr said.

“The legislation is only one part of significant reform in this area, with the Government investing in new services including the establishment of a Variation in Sex Characteristics Psychosocial Support Unit at the Canberra Hospital with specialist staff to support intersex people and their families and training packages and resources to support health professionals providing these services.”

Mr Barr said work was already underway to establish a new statutory oversight scheme and supports for parents and families of intersex children to navigate decisions and treatment pathways for their child.

Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith said deferrable and unnecessary medical interventions performed on children with variations in sex characteristics could result in poor health outcomes that effect the person for the rest of their life.

“This can include pain, trauma and a need for ongoing medical treatment that would not have otherwise been required,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“This legislation creates an additional layer of safeguarding to ensure that, where treatments can safely be deferred, this is done,” she said.

“Most importantly, it will give people with variations in sex characteristics more say in their own medical treatment.”

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