Human rights and inter*

Cosmetic operations on intersex children are carried out to this day. The number of operations on the genitals of children that do not correspond with the expectations of parents and medical professionals is not declining despite the campaign efforts of support groups and activists.[1]

Many organisations, such as the UN, Organisation Intersex International (OII), Amnesty International etc., define these surgical procedures as human rights violations because the children are not able to make decisions about their own bodies. These organisations believe that informed consent should be required from anyone who undergoes surgery. Parents should only be able to decide if their child should be operated on if the child’s health is at risk.

In addition to operations carried out without consent, there are other areas which can be considered as violations of human rights. For example, when the right to grow and develop in your own way is being violated or it becomes difficult to access your own health records.

Human rights, which are enshrined and protected by human rights law, presuppose that all people should be protected from discrimination and have the right to a private life. They should also be able to achieve the best level of health possible, and to be self-determined and recognised as individuals.

The human rights of intersex people are violated if

  • intersex is classed as a disorder.
  • surgical procedures are carried out on inter* children without consent.
  • informed consent is not taken seriously.
  • the right to grow and develop in your own way (particularly in terms of gender identity) is not respected.
  • it is difficult to access medical records.
  • it is difficult to join sports clubs and other organisations due to discrimination.

You can read a comprehensive report by OII Germany about human rights violations here.

Amnesty International has also focused on the subject of intersex and human rights. On the Amnesty International website, you can also read stories by inter* people whose rights have not been and are not being protected.

You can also find some suggestions of what you can do to protect the human rights of inter* people in the document solidarity and support.


[1] Hoenes, Josch; Januschke, Eugen; Klöppel, Ulrike (2019): Häufigkeit normangleichender Operationen „uneindeutiger“ Genitalien im Kindesalter. Follow-up study. Berlin: Centre for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies.