Intersex Genital Mutilation

Building Support for the Ban on Intersex Genital Mutilation

Dr. Saskia Ravesloot

Gender & Human Rights Expert,

 Member States at regular intervals of four and a half years. In 2022, the UN Human Rights Council closes the third cycle. All countries have been reviewed three times since 2008, against the benchmark of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and its core human rights treaties. The UPR has resulted in more than 86,500 recommendations received by States under Review (SuR) from their peers. Less than 1% (682 recommendations) emphasise the rights of a particular group of individuals: intersex children and adults. Intersexuality is identified against the framework of a binary understanding of sexuality, whereas intersex persons are somewhere in between the two categories of women and men, adding a linear layer to the binary outline. Although human rights are universal, intersex persons experience one of the worst forms of human rights violations: Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), depriving them of their uniqueness. This is “a medical intervention imposed on individuals with perfectly healthy bodies. These interventions have only one goal in mind, namely, to comply with the prevailing social, cultural and medical values, and norms.” [1] While significant research is conducted on the rights of persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, or the LGBTIQ+ community more broadly, in relation to the UPR, the rights of intersex persons have scarcely been discussed. This article broadens the scope and integrates IGM into the discussion of UPR recommendations that aim to ban IGM. The findings of the discourse analysis of 682 UPR recommendations reflect that only a few address IGM. This article finds further that to support this plea and to build opinion juris for the ban on IGM, UPR recommendations formulated in non-legalistic terminology are a better fit for the purpose. In the light of these findings, it is argued that to support the eradication of IGM, compromises should be made by prioritising the right to free, prior and informed consent and the right to physical autonomy, over the ban of IGM.

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