Some 1.7 children out of every 1,500 are born intersexual, deputies heard on Monday during a meeting of the House human rights committee.
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.
The committee began discussions on Monday on a report released last week by the ombudswoman, Eliza Savvidou, who called for more awareness on the “situation, the challenges and the rights of intersex persons”.
Savvidou’s report said that 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 where it is possible”.
Committee chairwoman Stella Kyriakidou said after Monday’s meeting that the UN considered the issue as one of physical integrity of the children and that medical interventions should only be made when deemed absolutely necessary.
“Intersex persons in Cyprus are an invisible group. They are invisible because nowhere is it recorded except at Makarios hospital,” Kyriakidou said. “But we do not know what happens in private clinics and how many incidents there have been in recent years.”
The aim of the committee’s discussion, she said, was to see how to improve the way they are treated both as regards possible changes to legislation and in providing proper information to parents. A meeting between all interested parties with Savvidou is to be held on September 26.