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UN Report: Forced Sterilization of Trans People "is Torture"

On February 1, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) issued a report on abusive practices in health care settings that has important implications for LGBT people and people with intersex conditions.

The report calls for repealing laws allowing “genital-normalizing” surgery on children with intersex conditions, and ending practices whereby LGBT patients or those with intersex conditions are subjected to unethical experimentation or made a subject of medical display without consent. The report also condemns the practice of so-called “reparative therapies” or “conversion therapies” that purport to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Especially notable for transgender people was the Special Rapporteur’s call for ending forced or coerced sterilization of transgender people as condition of recognizing their gender identities.

Section 39 of the report says, “…Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture.”

The report details the treatment faced by many LGBT people and people with intersex conditions. Acknowledging that these populations disproportionately face ill-treatment, the report lists being denied medical treatment, public humiliation, “reparative therapies” and the unwanted sterilization of transgender people as examples of the damaging experiences LGBTI people must face. These practices, the report states, are “rarely medically necessary” and can traumatize individuals and contribute to the stigma facing LGBTI people.

In section 88, the SRT says States should:

“repeal any law allowing intrusive and irreversible treatments, including forced genital-normalizing surgery, involuntary sterilization, unethical experimentation, medical display, “reparative therapies” or “conversion therapies”, when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned. He also calls upon them to outlaw forced or coerced sterilization in all circumstances and provide special protection to individuals belonging to marginalized groups.”

Advocates for Informed Choice, an organization which advocates for the rights of children with intersex conditions (sometimes referred to as differences of sex development/DSDs), supplied testimony in Washington, DC and will participate similarly in Geneva, Switzerland in UN events surrounding the report to educate and advocate for the intersex/DSD community. NCTE applauds the work done by AIC as well as the work of the Special Rapporteur in developing this report.

Read the Special Rapporteur’s report  here.

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