Photo: UNHRC UPR #14, Geneva 20.10.2012
Intersex children are born with variations of sex anatomy, including atypical genetic make-up, atypical sex hormone producing organs, atypical response to sex hormones, atypical genitals, atypical secondary sex markers. While intersex children may face several problems, in the “developed world” the most pressing are the ongoing Intersex Genital Mutilations, which present a distinct and unique issue constituting significant human rights violations (A).
IGMs include non-consensual, medically unnecessary, irreversible, cosmetic genital surgeries, and/or other harmful medical treatments that would not be considered for “normal” children, without evidence of benefit for the children concerned, but justified by societal and cultural norms and beliefs. (B 1.) Typical forms of IGMs include “masculinising” and “feminising” genital “correction”, castration, sterilisation, imposition of hormones, forced genital exams, vaginal dilations and medical display, human experimentation and selective abortion (B 2., Supplements “Historical Overview”, “Medical Textbooks”).
Since 1950, IGMs have been practised systematically and on an increasingly industrial scale allover the “developed world”, with Switzerland taking a leading role in the global dissemination, and all typical forms still practised in Switzerland today. Because “a hole” is surgically easier to shape than “a pole”, most “ambiguous” children were made into girls, until the 1990s often by amputation of their “enlarged clitoris.” Parents and children are misinformed, kept in the dark, sworn to secrecy and denied appropriate support (B 2.–3., Cases No. 1–6, Supplements “Historical Overview”, “Medical Textbooks”).
With Swiss government, health departments, health care providers, and health assurances refusing to disclose statistics, no actual numbers are available neither on the frequency of intersex births, estimated at 1:500–1:1000 (A 4.), nor on the frequency of IGMs, estimated at 90% of all intersex children and youths (B 3.).
IGMs cause lifelong serious physical and psychological complications, including loss or impairment of sexual sensation, painful scarring, painful intercourse, incontinence, serious problems with passing urine, increased sexual anxieties, less sexual activity, dissatisfaction with functional and aesthetic results, impairment or loss of reproductive capabilities, lifelong dependency of artificial hormones, significantly elevated rates of self-harming behaviour and suicidal tendencies, lifelong mental suffering and trauma. (B, Cases No. 1–6)
For more than 20 years, intersex people, NGOs, human rights and bioethics experts have criticised IGMs as harmful and traumatising, as a fundamental human rights violation, as western genital mutilation, and child sexual abuse, and called for legislation to end it (B, D).
The Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics (NEK), the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT), the UN-Committees CEDAW and CAT, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Council of Europe (COE) criticise these interventions as a violation of human rights, demand legislative measures (NEK, SRT, COE), historical reappraisal, acknowledgement by society of suffering inflicted (NEK) and compensation for victims (NEK, CAT) (D).
The Swiss Federal Government, Cantonal Health Departments and National Medical Bodies still refuse to take action, but allow the human rights violations of intersex children and adolescents to continue unhindered (B 3., C, D, E, Annexe 2).
This NGO Report to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Swiss state report was compiled by Zwischengeschlecht.org, Intersex.ch, and SI Selbsthilfe Intersexualität. Elaborating on the paragraphs on IGM in the Child Rights Network Switzerland NGO Report (p. 25–26), it contains concluding recommendations (F).