World Health Organization condemned for classifying intersex as ‘disorder’
Protesting intersex surgeries | Photo: Flickr/Stuart Crawford
More than 50 organizations advocating for intersex rights released a joint letter condemning the World Health Organization (WHO) for classifying traits as ‘disorders of sex development’.
According to the letter, the new WHO International Classification of Diseases 11 (ICD-11) uses the language of ‘disorders‘ to describe intersex traits and also promotes surgery on intersex individuals.
Organizations who signed the letter warn this classification ‘will cause continuing harm to people born with variations of sex characteristics’.
Reports have shown the harm of performing surgery on intersex people — often done for cosmetic and not medical reasons. The letter specifically calls this out.
‘Such interventions are grounded in gender stereotypes,’ it states.
‘When performed on individuals without their personal informed consent, human rights defenders and institutions have found these interventions to be harmful practices and violations of rights to bodily integrity, non-discrimination, equality before the law, privacy, and freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and experimentation.’
Finally, the letter offers several recommendations for WHO going forward.
‘Dismantle decades of torture’
Many advocates consider surgery a form of torture. It is often done without consent and can cause psychological complications later in life.
‘We urge WHO to open an immediate, public and transparent dialog with intersex advocates and experts, to work with us to dismantle decades of torture and ill treatment in medical settings,’ said Mauro Cabral Grinspan, executive director of GATE.
‘Intersex people around the world have the right not only to be protected from pathologisation, but also to have full access to reparative justice and to universal health coverage.’
Pathologization refers to the treatment of a health or behavioral trait as a medical condition.