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Activists call for ban on unnecessary intersex surgeries

Dec 23, 2019

First National Conference on Intersex Human Rights in India calls for a nationwide ban on unnecessary intersex surgeries.

New Delhi: The first National Conference on Intersex Human Rights in India, organized jointly by Srishti Madurai and Intersex Asia, was aimed at developing a comprehensive model law for protection of intersex human rights and banning unnecessary medical surgeries on intersex children.

In the special address delivered by Justice G R Swaminathan, Judge, Madras High Court who gave the historic judgment banning the surgeries in Tamil Nadu, expounded on the subject of constitutional interpretation of the concept of sex, gender and sexual orientation.

Anjali Gopalan, the well-known advocate of LGBTQIA+ community stated that what brought her to this issue was the remarkable work that a small student group called Srishti Madurai, was doing to make visible the concerns that intersex people have and demystify the issues they face. Speaking about this she said, “…when Gopi Shankar, co-founder of Srishti got in touch with me and sensitized me about the issue I packed my bag and went to Madurai and was amazed at how little we know about the issue. So, I now exhort everyone to learn about it, break the silence and create collaboration to build a more inclusive society for each child irrespective of their sexual orientation or biological characteristic.”

This appeal was taken forward by Dr. Anuradha Udumudi, one of the few female medical geneticists of the country who emphatically stated that “since all of us including medical practitioners harbor wrong notions or have an over-simplified view of the gender binary of woman and man, we end up overlooking the huge spectrum of gender characteristics including intersex who do not fit into this binary and have many evolving characteristic.”

She went on to add that given the possibility with 1 in every 5000 persons could have varying gender characteristic at birth and in the light of the huge gap in knowledge and awareness on this issue we need to first understand better the condition. She, therefore, urged all stakeholders to come together as policy makers, medical practitioners, researchers, social workers, parents and persons affected by it to create social awareness and persuade the medical fraternity not to treat intersex condition as a ‘medical disorder’ but as a sex characteristic. It is a subject on which we need more data and scientific study to inform any action or decision we take as a society.”

Introducing a panel comprised of founding members of Intersex Asia, Gopi Shankar said that for the first time a collective of intersex individuals and organizations with national and regional chapters, “has decided to put forth the issue in a determined way, encourage a spirit of assertion and self-determination among intersex persons to disabuse the notion that an intersex child or person is unhealthy or challenged and ensure their integration in all walks of life.” He attributed his own activism on this issue to the intellectual support he got in various ways through different forums and association. In April 2019, Srishti Madurai got a major breakthrough when the Madras High Court recommended the issuance of an executive order banning sex normalizing surgery for intersex children.

Taking this forward, Esan Regmi, Co-Chair-Intersex Asia stated that “when I was 20 years old I realized who I am and why. Till then despite the unflinching support I got from my father I suffered so much abuse and humiliation and underwent such anxiety that I am now determined to prevent the same thing happening with other intersex persons.”

Sharing her experience as a single parent of an intersex child, Koushumi Chakraborti said that her decision to adopt the child stemmed from the realization that “each of us have to take responsibility for what is happening around us.” She went on to emphasize that taking responsibility is even more important given the level of ignorance that abounds on this issue and while elaborating on it she said that “even government agencies mandated to safeguard the rights of children are not aware of what intersex child is and often term it as a transgender child and with as many as 1400 children registered as special needs or intersex children, there is a possibility of them being adopted,” she added.

The conference also featured presentations from well-known medical experts such as Dr. S. Ramesh, Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, Bangalore and Dr. Satendra Singh. Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, Delhi.

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