Friday, June 21, 2024

ACT introduces Australian-first Bill to protect intersex rights

In an Australian-first, the ACT Government has introduced the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023, in a bid to protect the rights and choices of people with variations in sex characteristics in medical settings.

ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr says the new legislation recognises that people with variations in sex characteristics should not be subject to harm through inappropriate medical interventions.

“It has long been recommended, through national and international reviews and by the intersex community, that governments take action to protect the human rights of intersex people in medical settings and for irreversible and non-urgent procedures to be deferred until the person is old enough to be able to decide for themselves what is done to their bodies,” Mr Barr said.

“There are people with variations in sex characteristics and their families who have experienced harm through inappropriate medical interventions.

“This Bill provides a new approach that seeks to prevent those experiences from being repeated.

“I am proud that the ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia, and one of the first in the world, to make these reforms a reality and a promise of change.”

The Chief Minister said the parents and families of intersex children had not received the support and help needed to navigate decisions and treatment pathways for their child.

“These reforms will give intersex people and their families more support and expert guidance for their medical treatment choices,” he said.

“Having a variation in sex characteristics means that part of your body, like genitals or features that emerge in puberty – breasts, body hair or facial hair – do not fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies. Variations in sex characteristics is also called ‘intersex’.

“The legislation is only one part of significant reform in this area, with the Government investing $2.6 million over four years in new services and supports.”

This includes:

  • An improved decision-making framework;
  • 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;
  • Training packages for health professionals.

Executive Director of Intersex Human Rights Australia, Morgan Carpenter said the reforms promise to ensure that medical interventions on many people with innate variations of sex characteristics meet human rights norms.

“They will enable individuals, to the maximum extent possible, to make their own decisions about their own bodies – in their own time, and in line with their own values and principles. We hope that other jurisdictions will take up the challenge, implementing the same reforms to ensure maximum benefit and national consistency,” Mr Carpenter said.

The legislation enables the ACT Government to fulfil a key commitment in the implementation of the Capital of Equality Strategy and the reforms demonstrate the Government’s commitment to making Canberra a more inclusive, progressive and equal for all Canberrans.

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