World Health Organization condemns forced sterilization of trans and intersex people

The World Health Organization (WHO) has joined forces with UN Women, UN AIDS, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to condemn the forced sterilization of transgender and intersex people in a groundbreaking report.

The report, ‘Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization – An interagency statement,’ is the strongest statement in support of the rights of transgender and intersex people to be recognized as the gender they identify with without having to undergo invasive surgical procedures at a global level and was released on 30 May.

“However, in some countries, people belonging to certain population groups, including people living with HIV, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, and transgender and intersex persons, continue to be sterilized without their full, free and informed consent”, the report reads.

“Sterilization without full, free and informed consent has been variously described by international, regional and national human rights bodies as an involuntary, coercive and/or forced practice, and as a violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to health, the right to information, the right to privacy, the right to decide on the number and spacing of children, the right to found a family and the right to be free from discrimination”.

Many intersex people who have been subjected to such surgical interventions have found in puberty that they have been assigned a gender that they do not feel is correct for them. “Some groups, such as transgender and intersex persons, also have a long history of discrimination and abuse related to sterilization, which continues to this day,” the report notes.

“Such violations are reflected, for example, in the various legal and medical requirements, including for sterilization, to which transgender and intersex persons have been subjected in order to obtain birth certificates and other legal documents that match their preferred gender. Intersex persons, in particular, have been subjected to cosmetic and other non- medically necessary surgery in infancy, leading to sterility, without informed consent of either the person in question or their parents or guardians. Such practices have also been recognized as human rights violations by international human rights bodies and national courts.”

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