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Early intervention on intersex children and children’s rights

A seminar aimed at safeguarding the human rights of intersex children has taken place in Strasbourg. Medical practices applied to intersex children may have future long-term implications for them, and it is vital to safeguard children’s right throughout the process. Early intervention on intersex children and promoting the rights of the child, as well as ethical issues arising in this context was the theme of the seminar, which was organised by the Steering Committee for Human Rights in the Fields of Biomedicine and Health on 31 May.

The event participants discussed examples of practices and measures promoting the rights of the child in four main areas: legislation, training, decision-making process regarding early intervention and supporting measures.

Every child is a rights holder in his or her own capacity, and every child has the right “to an open future” - a right to have one’s future options kept open until one can make one’s own decisions. This right therefore implies restrictions on what parents (and others) can do for children, and, on some interpretations, indicates what parents (and others) ought to provide children with. There are challenges regarding the most appropriate interventions which parents and others should be allowed to authorise in order to safeguard the health of the child.

Resolution2191(2017) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on promoting the human rights of, and eliminating discrimination against, intersex people, calls for “medically unnecessary, sex-“normalising” surgery” on intersex babies to be prohibited, along with other treatments practiced on intersex children and young people without their informed consent. It recommended carrying out further research into the long-term impact of these treatments and to ensure that, unless there is an immediate risk to the life of a child, altering the sex characteristics of children is postponed until the child can participate in the decision.

The seminar took place under the Strategic Action Plan on Human Rights and Technologies in Biomedicine (2020-2025).

Council of Europe Strasbourg 31 May 2022
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