IACHR Calls on States to Guarantee the Right to Truth, Justice, and Reparation for Intersex People

October 26, 2021

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Washington, D.C. — On Intersex Awareness Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the States in the Americas to guarantee intersex people access to their medical records on interventions performed without their informed consent, as part of the right to know the truth and access justice and reparation.

The IACHR has underlined that intersex people are exposed to specific forms of violence from childhood and adolescence, as part of a context of invisibility, prejudice, and taboos. The main manifestation of this violence is the carrying out of medical surgery without the individual's consent, in an attempt to modify their sexual characteristics to fit them within the socially accepted presentations of the binary gender system. In many cases, this surgery results in involuntary sterilization, irreversible infertility, and the reduction or loss of sexual sensitivity, and it also impacts victims' mental health due to their constant exposure to medical personnel, among other factors.

In line with the recommendations issued by the UN Committee and Rapporteur against Torture, the IACHR has expressed concern about the lack of informed consent for these surgical interventions. It also noted that intersex people often encounter difficulties in accessing their medical records in a timely manner, which prevents them from knowing the truth about the interventions carried out in their childhood and adolescence. In this regard, two thematic hearings were held at the 147th and 161st periods of sessions, at which intersex people who had been subjected to surgical interventions without their consent during their childhood stated that it was only in adulthood that they became aware of the nature and effects of the interventions in question.

The IACHR stressed that, under the Inter-American System of Human Rights, the right to the truth is directly connected to the full exercise of the rights to judicial guarantees and judicial protection, and also constitutes a form of reparation in itself. In this regard, it urged States to adopt the necessary measures to ensure that intersex persons can have timely, adequate access to their medical records, given how instrumental access to this information is to knowing the truth and ensuring access to justice and reparation. The IACHR once again noted that impunity validates violence and discrimination against victims, which encourages its repetition.

As a consequence, the IACHR once more recommended that States adopt measures that expressly prohibit any surgery or interventions that are not medically necessary from being performed on intersex children without their consent. In addition, it urged States to implement initiatives to provide training for medical personnel and adopt strategies to ensure that adequate information is available on the consequences of surgical interventions and that this information be culturally and linguistically appropriate. Finally, it noted that the absence of medical interventions should never hinder the registration of a child's birth with the relevant authorities.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 283/21

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