Last week the United Nations released a report condemning the practice of performing “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

The Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council submitted a report to the General Assembly that addressed the practice of surgically altering children born with ambiguous genitalia.According to the report [PDF], “Children who are born with atypical sex characteristics are often subject to irreversible sex assignment, involuntary sterilization, involuntary genital normalizing surgery, performed without their informed consent, or that of their parents, ‘in an attempt to fix their sex’, leaving them with permanent, irreversible infertility and causing severe mental suffering.”

The report concludes [PDF] “The Special Rapporteur calls upon all States to repeal any law allowing intrusive and irreversible treatments, including forced genital-normalizing surgery, involuntary sterilization, unethical experimentation, medical display, ‘reparative therapies’ or ‘conversion therapies’, when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned. He also calls upon them to outlaw forced or coerced sterilization in all circumstances and provide special protection to individuals belonging to marginalized groups.”

According to the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), intersex is “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Intersexuality can present in a wide variety of ways – such as ambiguous external genitalia, ambiguous internal sexual organs, and/or sex chromosomes that deviate from normative medical definitions. According to ISNA, approximately one or two children per 1,000 births will have some sort of sex “normalization” surgery.

For more information on intersexuality, visit the Intersex Society of North America’s website.

Media Resources: Ms. Magazine 2/7/2013; “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez” 2/1/2013; Intersex Society of North America

Surgical tools, with surgeons busy performing operation in background from Shutterstock