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Chilean officials oppose intersex children ‘normalization’ surgery

The Chilean government last week released a document that urges doctors in the South American country to no longer perform “normalization” surgeries on intersex children. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Chilean government has urged doctors in the South American country to no longer perform surgeries that “normalize” the sex of intersex children.

Undersecretary of Health Jaime Burrows and Undersecretary of Assistance Networks Gisela Alarcón in a document the Chilean Ministry of Health released last week expressed its opposition to “unnecessary ‘normalization’ treatments of intersex children” that include “irreversible genital surgeries until they are of a sufficient age to make decisions about their bodies.”

Camilo Godoy Peña, a Chilean LGBT rights advocate, on Jan. 8 noted on his Facebook page that the document, which is dated Dec. 22, also contains a series of recommendations for each branch of the country’s public health system. These include the creation of a round table of endocrinologists, gynecologists, psychiatrists and other specialists to determine “which action to take in each case” of an intersex child.

Godoy said this document is the first time the Chilean government has provided “clear instruction” on the treatment of intersex children.

“From this point forward there is a concrete tool to use to enforce the human rights of a group of people who have ‘been made invisible,’” he wrote on his Facebook page. “For decades they have been victims of violence, torture and ignorance.”

The Chilean government released its recommendations less than three months after Godoy presented a letter to President Michelle Bachelet that urged her government to do more to protect the rights of intersex people.

U.N. report critical of ‘involuntary genital normalizing surgery’

Opposition to what advocates have described as Intersex Genital Mutilation has increased in recent years.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2013 issued a report that notes intersex children who undergo “involuntary genital normalizing surgery” face “permanent, irreversible infertility” and “severe mental suffering.” The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights are among the other international bodies that have expressed concern over the treatment of intersex people.

Lawmakers in Malta last year approved a bill that bans doctors from performing “surgical intervention on the sex characteristics of a minor” until he or she can provide “informed consent.”

A Maryland law that allows intersex people to legally change the gender on their birth certificates without surgery took effect last October. German parents since 2013 have been able to designate the gender on their children’s birth certificates as “indeterminate.”

An Irish law that allows transgender people to legally change their gender without medical intervention took effect last September. Advocates have criticized the statute because it does not include intersex people.

Camilo Godoy Peña stands outside the Chilean Presidential Palace in Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 26, 2015, with a sign against so-called Intersex Genital Mutilation. (Photo courtesy of Camilo Godoy Peña)