The foremost challenge with respect to intersex human rights is ensuring protection of bodily integrity and health needs of intersex infants and children. Much like the rest of the world, the current societal order in India is based on binary understanding of both sex and gender. As a result, societal structure prescribes that people should fit in the binary sex/gender model of female/male and whoever falls out of this dichotomy needs to be “fixed”, initially through genital or sex “normalising” surgeries. Intersex is treated as a pathology and thus different treatments are often undertaken before and during infancy and childhood of intersex people to alter their bodies and make them conform to gendered norms. Intersex children in India are at constant risk of forced surgical and medical intervention in the form of normalising surgeries. Healthcare professionals perform these surgeries without any prior and informed consent of the child. To address this challenge, Naz Foundation and Srishti Madurai propose to launch an online platform which can serve as a one-stop guiding point for intersex persons in India.
Aims and Objectives of IIF
For decades, intersex persons used to be invisible but ever since they began activism at an organised level, their first priorities was, and still is, the explicit ban of invasive, involuntary and harmful surgeries that target to fit them in the binary by making them “fully male” or “fully female”. In other words, when an infant is born intersex, doctors will often advise parents to perform surgical and other medical interventions on intersex bodies, in order to make them conform to binary male or female characteristics. These surgeries are done without valid consent of the child.
Today, the parents of a new-born infants with intersex variations do not have any avenue to get information about the physical condition of the infant or seek medical guidance. Given the paucity of information, the parents eventually end-up making an uninformed decision in favour of normalizing surgeries. Further, even the medical community is not sufficiently aware about intersex health needs in particular and intersex issues in general. Therefore, it is necessary that all stakeholders including the medical professionals who are allies in the intersex human rights movement need to be given a platform.
Working within this context, IIF has three-fold objective-provide guidance, create awareness and conduct research and advocacy on intersex human rights in general and rights of intersex children in particular. The primary objective of the proposed online platform is to serve as a 24X7 online helpline for people in India who seek to get medical advice. To this end, Naz Foundation and Srishti Madurai will create a network of medical professionals including pediatricians and medical geneticists who can provide medical guidance to parents of intersex infants and children. The project will be undertaken in two stages:
Stage I: Awareness and Guidance
|Consent Rights of Intersex Children |
Stage II: Advocacy and Training
|Research and Advocacy|
|Nationwide legislation to prohibit unnecessary surgeries on Intersex children/infants|
End discrimination based on nomenclature and terminology
Ensure access to public services without any discrimination
Reform Medical Education to increase awareness about intersex human rights
|Training medical professionals on medical ethics|
Standard Medical Protocol for
understanding intersex variations
Network of Experts for Medical Guidance
Target Sections for the Awareness and Guidance
Target Institutions for Advocacy
(Union & State)
|Women and Child|
Health and Family
Social Justice Department of
Persons with Disabilities
(Union & State)
|National Human Rights Commission|
National Commission for
Protection of Child
Persons with Disabilities
Medical Council of
Guiding Legal and Policy Framework for the Project
In the last decade, several positive developments have taken place calling for a ban on such surgeries. At the international level, such procedures have been deemed as a form of torture by the United Nations and have been condemned by the World Health Organization, and several other human rights organizations. A ban on these surgeries is a core demand of Intersex organisations around the world and is reflected in different consensus documents such as Malta Declaration and Vienna Statement.
On 22 April 2019, Hon’ble Justice G.R. Swaminathan of the Madras High Court delivered a path-breaking judgment banning the non-necessary medical interventions on intersex children in the state of Tamil Nadu. This judgement clearly stated that the consent of parents/guardians does not equal prior, free and fully informed autonomous consent of the child.
Complying with the specific direction, the state government of Tamil Nadu passed a Government Order in August 2019 banning the practice of sex reassignment surgeries on intersex children except on life-threatening situations. This is a first major normative step towards a comprehensive legal protection regime for intersex children. However, this order only applies to the people living in Tamil Nadu, and not to the entire population living in India. A national level initiative is required to extend this legal protection at the national level.