Page 507 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 22 March 2023
urgent medical care, which should always be provided. However, other variations result in differences that do not need any medical action.
Our society is not always accepting of diversity in people’s bodies. For people who are intersex, this can lead to medical interventions driven by the assumption that all bodies should appear the same, fitting binary norms of male and female. Sometimes families are worried about their children growing up with bodies that are different from those around them, and this can happen even when the differences in their bodies do not cause health problems. This can result in proposals to undertake unnecessary medical interventions before the person can make a decision for themselves, and it is these treatments that this bill seeks to regulate.
Evidence from intersex people who have received these kinds of treatments in childhood or in adolescence, before they could decide for themselves, reveals the extent and the long-term impact of these experiences. For some intersex people this has included pain, complications requiring additional surgeries, anxiety, depression, or being subject to medical treatments to conform with agenda not in accord with their identity. For decades intersex people have called for these treatments to be deferred until a person is old enough to be able to decide for themselves.
National and international reviews have repeatedly recommended that changes be made to provide better care to intersex people and more support to families, and to stop practices that risk harm. This bill heeds those calls. The ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia, and one of the first in the world, to make this a reality. Over the last four years, extensive consultation has occurred with experts and intersex community representatives across Canberra, across Australia and internationally. This work has been undertaken to design a nation-leading and world-leading scheme to protect the human rights of intersex people in medical settings.
Central to the reform I introduce today is a fundamental principle that people, including children, should always be involved in decisions about irreversible and non-urgent medical interventions made to their bodies. This bill establishes new decision-making processes to be applied when irreversible medical treatments are being considered for people with variations in sex characteristics. Its effect will be to permit these interventions only when they meet the criteria set out in the bill.
Under the bill, a restricted medical treatment is a surgical or medical procedure or treatment, including the prescription or administration of a drug, that permanently changes the person’s sex characteristics or which makes changes to the person’s sex characteristics that are reversible only with a further medical procedure or treatment.
Examples of treatments to which the bill will apply include labiaplasty, clitorectomy, phalloplasty and gonadectomy. It also applies to hormone treatments that cause permanent changes to a person’s sex characteristics, such as breast growth or change in vocal pitch. The bill is designed to protect the rights of people who lack the capacity to make their own decisions about treatments to their bodies. In most cases they will be children who do not yet have the maturity to make a legal decision. The bill will also protect adults who have been assessed not to have the legal capacity to make some health decisions and are under guardianship, to assist them with those decisions.