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News, Tasmania

Report calls for forced intersex surgery to be criminalised

Tasmanian LGBTIQ advocates have welcomed a new report approving the state’s gender reforms and calling for unnecessary surgery on intersex children to be a crime.

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI) has reported that Tasmania’s groundbreaking new gender laws are some of the most progressive in the world.

Since they were enacted over a year ago, the laws have been beneficial and had none of the “unintended consequences” feared by the state government, the report has found.

The conclusions in the TLRI report follow extensive research at the direction of the state Attorney-General, including public and stakeholder consultation on how the Marriage and Gender Amendments Act has operated. 

Among the implications of the Act, the first of its kind in Australia, are the removal of the obligation for parents to record their children’s sex on birth certificates (though it is still registered) and the ability for people to change their legal gender without the need for surgery.

TLRI researcher Dylan Richards said that the new laws mainly affect trans and non-binary members of the community and make their lives easier in accessing public services.

“These benefits have not come at a cost for most other Tasmanians,” Richards said.

“We hope the report will provide clarity for other Australian states that are considering following Tasmania’s lead towards law that supports human rights for diverse gender identities.”

As part of the review, the TLRI considered the regulations around consent, authorisation, and the impact of medical procedures performed on children.

In response to medical and psychological evidence, and experiences shared by intersex and gender diverse people and their families, the TLRI recommended new laws to clearly establish when a person can consent to medical treatment.

The report has specifically recommended making non-consensual surgery a crime, other than in cases of lifesaving treatment, and making it easier for intersex people to obtain compensation for harms resulting from non-consensual surgery.

“We found that surgical interventions on intersex children can have significant long-term consequences that last into adulthood,” Richards said.

“Given the ongoing concern from the intersex community about this kind of surgery, we recommend stronger, clearer guidance around consent to medical treatment.”

Simone-lisa Anderson of Intersex Peer Support Australia agreed with the TLRI recommendation to end non-consensual surgery.

“This is something I welcome, as do many in this community, given everyone has the human right of body autonomy no matter what age we are,” said Anderson.

“I am looking forward to reading the Institute’s recommendations in detail and then talking with state MPs to progress this critical area of law reform.”

Morgan Carpenter of Intersex Human Rights Australia also spoke in support of the TLRI recommendations.

“The recommendations in this report on the treatment of children with intersex variations represent a major step forward, in calling for concrete legislative reform,” said Carpenter.

“We hope these recommendations will not be overshadowed in discussion about the report.”

Richards also emphasised the importance of protecting the rights of young trans people.

“We heard from young transgender adults about the distress caused by lengthy delays before receiving medical treatment, or conflicting advice they received from doctors,” he said.

“Members of the transgender community will also benefit from improved clarity around consent to medical treatment.”

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Charlie Burton welcomed the report’s findings.

“Tasmania’s world-leading reforms have been given a legal tick of approval and we urge other states to follow our lead,” said Burton.

“Now we can move on to address other issues so that trans, gender diverse, and intersex Tasmanians are free from discrimination in all aspects of life, issues like banning unnecessary surgery on intersex children and giving appropriate support to younger Tasmanians who are transitioning.”

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