OMBUDSWOMAN, Eliza Savvidou on Wednesday invited Wednesday the health ministry, doctors and civil rights group ACCEPT-LGBT to an open discussion to address the problems faced by intersex persons as there is currently no legal framework safeguarding their rights.
Savvidou called for more awareness on the “situation, the challenges and the rights of intersex persons”.
Intersex is defined as a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
As regards the rights of intersex persons, Savvisou said, although their situation does not constitute a medical condition and in most cases there is no risk to their health or life, intersex physiology is treated as a medical problem, which must be “cured”.
It is a fact, she said, that when a child is born whose “gender may not be recorded either as male or as female, parents/guardians are facing a major dilemma precisely because of the bipolar gender approach”. In these cases, Savvidou said, following the guidance of doctors “who most often do not know much about intersex children, they consent to surgical procedures for the determination of the sex, without the child itself having perception of its own sex and without it giving its consent”.
“Medical interventions are performed, in order to enforce a gender to intersex people so that they are socially acceptable”. However, she said, “these interventions most often are irreversible and violate the physical integrity as well as the dignity and private life of these children”.
In Cyprus too, she said, medical interventions for sex determination in intersex children are not based, most often, on a real medical need, but they are inspired by socio-cultural attitudes, which may cause physical and psychological pain and physical or mental health problems.
“In our country, they constitute a practice that is largely uncharted, characterised by ignorance and prejudice, and which is not compatible with fundamental human rights such as the right to self-determination and physical integrity,” Savvidou said.
She added that such “invasive and irreversible procedures”, should be prohibited without prior consent of the child, which should be left free to develop the self-determination of its gender identity. “In any case, the right of every human being to not be subjected to surgery or any other treatment determining their sex, should be respected”.
According to Savvidou, health professionals should have the appropriate knowledge to adequately inform parents not to characterise their children’s situation as a disorder and not automatically and easily suggest a “surgical imposition of gender”.
As regards the main issues concerning intersex persons from the scope of human rights, she said, “it is time to discuss the issue on the basis of modern law principles, without the veil which predominantly covers intersex identity”.
“These issues have not been sufficiently highlighted and discussed in Cyprus thus stereotypes, attitudes and prejudices are being perpetuated, which represent intersex identity perversely,” the announcement said. “It is for this that the emergence of these issues and the visibility of intersex people is crucial for the establishment of a public dialogue and of an institutional framework to ensure, on the basis of modern law principles, their rights, and to prevent and combat discrimination against them”.
In most European countries there has not been adequate research, Savvidou said, to “identify the needs of these individuals and to adequately safeguard their rights through specific and clear laws”.
At the same time, she said, there is still confusion about the situation of intersex persons and their particular circumstances and they are often included in the wider debate on trans people and gender identity or expression.
The ombudswoman called on the health ministry, the medical association (CyMA) and rights group ACCEPT-LGBT in an open discussion on this issue, on September 26.