IACHR calls to guarantee the rights of intersex older persons

October 26, 2023

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Washington, D.C. - On Intersex Awareness Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the States of the region to guarantee the human rights of intersex persons - those whose bodies do not seem to conform to the medical and/or sociocultural "standard" of binary man/woman bodies - and urges the adoption of measures that guarantee them a life with dignity across the life cycle.

Intersex persons are subjected to discrimination and different types of violence during their lives. These include genital surgeries and unnecessary medical treatments, most often performed at an early age without their understanding and consent, often motivated by the desire to change the appearance of the genitals to the sex assigned at birth. The consequences of these interventions may not end during childhood, but continue with chronic pain, physical scars or emotional trauma, hormonal dependence, genital insensitivity and sterilization and can end up being experienced for a long time or for life. 

When considering the situation of human rights of intersex older persons, it must be noted that many of them lived a great part of their lives without protections against discrimination and have experienced medical secrecy and paternalism as the norm. They experience obstacles, for example, the lack of psychosocial support, invisibility and isolation. Likewise, like most older adults, older intersex people also have specific health needs due to their age, but differentiated due to their body diversity. This situation can mean difficulties in accessing and receiving adequate medical care.

Likewise, many intersex persons have not had access to personal medical information or records and the passage of time increases the possibility that this information will not be recoverable. Furthermore, the statute of limitations on civil or criminal actions makes investigations into violations of human rights difficult if people try to initiate them during their old age. 

Faced with this, the IACHR urges the member states of the OAS to eradicate medical practices that are not urgent or medically necessary with respect to intersex persons, if they themselves do not consent to said interventions, taking into account the consequences of these for the rest of their lives. Likewise, the IACHR calls for designing public policies that take into account the intersection between the long-term effects of said interventions and the specific needs of older persons, including their right to recover their medical information. 

Finally, it calls States to establish reporting protocols for medical abuse and investigate human rights violations that have occurred and provide reparations and compensation to people subjected to abuse, and to include the perspective of older persons in legislation and public policies. 

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence. 

No. 250/23

2:35 PM