Ensuring health and bodily integrity: towards a human rights approach for people born with variations in sex characteristics

Child protection Child welfare Medical law Human rights LGBTIQ+ Australia

This report seeks to provide a pathway forward to address a challenging set of human rights issues that can have significant personal impacts if not addressed. Past consideration of the issues in this report has not resulted in the introduction of adequate protections, despite the significance of the issues. Ultimately, this report is about putting into place better protections for children who do not have the legal capacity to make life altering decisions for themselves.

Many of the most controversial and contested interventions have occurred when individuals were infants, or as children too young to be able to provide their own consent. Decisions about these procedures have often been made based on prevailing social attitudes and the available research base – both of which have changed in important ways over recent years.

In this report, the Commission proposes better oversight and approval mechanisms, requirements for ensuring informed decision making for parents and children, a limiting of the circumstances in which an intervention may occur without the consent of the person affected, and stronger consequences where these requirements are not met.

Australia’s obligations under international human rights treaties have been central to the Commission’s approach in how to better protect individuals’ rights. Informed by these commitments, the Commission’s proposals for reform are underpinned by a human rights framework expressed in five fundamental human rights principles.

The recommendations in this report propose a substantial change from the current framework. While this will no doubt have its challenges, the Commission considers that adopting this approach will best guarantee the human rights to health and bodily integrity of people born with variations in sex characteristics.

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