Title: Comment: What does Malta's ban on Intersex Genital Mutliation really mean? Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 5th January 2016 - 1:13pm1451952780 Article: 17738 Rights
In April 2015, Malta became the first nation anywhere in the world to ban "remedial" intersex surgery on infants, or, as the intersex community calls it "intersex genital mutilation." Why is this so important to the intersex community and how feasible would it be in New Zealand?   The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sexual Characteristics Act has been applauded by the Organisation of International Intersex Associations and Transgender Europe as being a benchmark for transgender and intersex rights. Not only does it provide freedom from employment, accomodation and service provider discrimination on the basis of transgender or intersex status, but it also explicitly bans 'corrective' or 'remedial' intersex surgery against newborn infants with 'anomalous' genitalia. There are clinical complications for many individuals who undergo such surgery, as well as negative psychological indicators. The OIIA and other international intersex rights groups previously called for 'informed consent' legislation that would require medical practitioners to inform parents of intersex children about the physical and psychological risks of unneccessary surgical intervention in this context. Although it is a voluntary code of professional practice, the Code of Health and Disability Consumers Rights Right 7 suggests the importance of this cautionary procedure. The idea is that the individual affected may then choose whether or not s/he wants to undergo surgery when they reach the age of comprehension and consent. Given the emergence of new medical and scientific evidence about the harms of early infantile "corrective" surgery in this context, the OIIA has changed its stance to one of legislative prohibition of intersex surgical intervention. Malta is the first nation to take this seriously enough to pass such a legislative ban. Its legislation provides for medical practitioners to consult with officials to insure that only medical necessity criteria are used for any surgical intervention in this context, which would mean that surgical intervention is limited to rare instances where there are additional health complications related to the condition that do require surgery. There have been other positive responses to this development. Given that the international feminist movement has been at the forefront of banning female genital mutilation across much of the western world, it has horrified many of its members to realise that similar damaging involuntary surgery is carried out against intersex infants, and consequently, there has been a strong sympathetic response to intersex activist attempts to have the surgery banned from that quarter. The transgender community's 'genderfluid' contingent has also been supportive, noting that while some transgender individuals are struggling for the right to access consensual hormonal treatment and surgery, there is a corresponding 'right to refusal' in this context that requires reciprocal support for the intersex community as it battles to to insure the minimisation or eradication of such surgery. Lesbians and gay men are similarly sympathetic, given that in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, there are analogous battles to insure that unwanted 'reparative therapy' 'counselling' procedures are not forced on lesbian/gay adolescents. For once, the Christian Right is silent over the issue. The only comments have been barracking at feminist scientist Anne Fausto-Sterling and her "anti-binary" proposals to recognise five sexes instead of the oversimplified MF dichotomy. What about New Zealand? In 1994, the Bolger administration passed Section 204A of the Crimes Act 1961, which outlawed female genital mutilation. Therefore, it would probably be most convenient to expand the ambit of that clause to include intersex genital mutilation as well. This is such a new issue that the Christian Right seems to be silent on the matter for a welcome change. However, given the current Key administration's obscurantism on LGBT issues other than marriage equality and HIV prevention, we may have to wait until the advent of a change of government to press for analogous changes here. Recommended: "Malta becomes first country to ban intersex surgeryon babies:" Pinknews: 02.04.2015:http://www. a-becomes-first-country-to- outlaw-surgery-on-intersex- babies/ Hazel Glen Beh and Milton Diamond: "An Emerging Medical and Ethical Dilemma: Should Doctors Perform Surgery on Infants With Ambiguous Genitalia?"Michigan Journal of Gender and the Law:2000 Catherine L. Minto et al: "The Effect on Clitoral Surgery on Sexual Outcomes of People Who Have Had Surgery Performed on Anomalous Genitalia"Lancet: 2003: 361: 1252-7. Lisa Melton: "New Perspectives on the Management of Intersex"Lancet:2001: 357: 2110. Craig Young - 5th January 2016    
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