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Thursday 10 November 2016

Intersex Genital Mutilation in New Zealand: A Shameful Silence

Posted in: Our Communities
By Craig Young - 23rd September 2016

Why are medically unnecessary and potentially harmful involuntary 'remedial' surgeries still being carried out on intersex infants in New Zealand?

Last week representatives of the New Zealand government were questioned at the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in regards to the rights and care of intersex children.
That question was posed by the international, German-based intersex rights NGO Stop IGM [Intersex Genital Mutilation], when it questioned Minister for Children Anne Tolley and Ministry of Health Chief Advisor Patrick Tuohy at the 73rd Meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in early September 2016.

In response to questions from Stop IGM representatives about the apparent lack of specific informed consent to medical procedures from parents and the absence of legislative prohibitions against intersex genital mutilation in New Zealand, Tuohy announced that there were "no [government] plans" for legislative reform. However, infant intersex surgery "had not" been carried out in New Zealand "since 2006" and there was a de facto "professional suspension" of such medical procedures in effect which "removed the necessity" for the implementation of such legislative reform.

In its NGO Shadow Report on intersex genital mutilation in New Zealand, Stop IGM challenged this account. It argued that the New Zealand governmental representatives account was misleading, and that major New Zealand university children's clinics, New Zealand District Health Boards and the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne continued to carry out this questionable and objectionable practice. Stop IGM noted the non-consensual, physiologically and psychologically harmful nature of infant intersex surgical intervention, which renders the designation IGM wholly appropriate. It conceded that New Zealand was not alone in condoning the practice and ignoring its profound harms- Switzerland, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom and Nepal also do so, given that Malta and Chile are the only nations to have prohibited IGM outright thus far. As the reader can see, there are numerous medical journal articles questioning the need and outcomes of infant intersex surgery already in print.

Although most gonadectomies are carried out at Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne (roughly fifteen each year), some are carried out at Auckland Starship Children's Hospital by a pediatric urologist, despite criticism of the practice from the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and Stop IGM itself.

In its conclusion to their shadow report, Stop IGM asked why intersex genital mutilation could not be banned by an analogous provision in the Crimes Act 1961 to Sections 204A and 204B, both of which prohibit female genital mutilation in New Zealand (perhaps a Section 204C for that purpose?)

For the LGBTI citizens of New Zealand, our duty and responsibility is clear. We now need to take up Stop IGM's condemnation of this abhorrent practice and actively campaign for its termination in New Zealand through appropriate legislative reform.


UK Intersex Association:

Intersex UK:

4 Hermaphrodites 2:

Intersex Society of North America:

Intersex Initiative:

Advocates for Informed Choice:

AISSG Australia: aissg

Organisation for Intersex Individuals:

Genital Autonomy:

Intersex Society of South Africa:

Stop IGM:http://www.

Strongly Recommended:

Intersex Genital Mutilation: Human Rights Violations of Children With Variations of Sex Anatomy: NGO Report on the 5th Periodic Report of New Zealand to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:
http://intersex.shadowreport. org/public/2016-CRC-NZ-NGO- Zwischengeschlecht-Intersex- IGM.pdf

SM Creighton and LM Laio: “Changing Attitudes to Sex Assignment in Intersex”British Journal of Urology International(2004).

Hazel Glen Beh and Milton Diamond: "An Emerging Medical and Ethical Dilemma: Should Doctors Perform Surgery on Infants With Ambiguous Genitalia?"Michigan Journal of Gender and the Law:2000

Catherine L. Minto et al: "The Effect on Clitoral Surgery on Sexual Outcomes of People Who Have Had Surgery Performed on Anomalous Genitalia"Lancet: 2003: 361: 1252-7.

Lisa Melton: "New Perspectives on the Management of Intersex"Lancet:2001: 357: 2110.

Frouhke Slijper: “Clitoral Surgery and Sexual Outcome in Intersex Conditions”The Lancet(2003): 1236.

Elizabeth MacDonald: “Provoking Law Reform: Feminism, Queer Theory and the Legislative Agenda” in Dean Knight and Claire Charters (ed) We The People: Victoria University Press and NZ Centre for Public Law: 2011: 251-7

Craig Young - 23rd September 2016

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