WHO : Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization

Transgender persons and intersex persons

In many countries, transgender and often also intersex persons are required to undergo sterilization surgeries that are often unwanted, as a prerequisite to receiving genderaffirmative treatment and gender-marker changes (16, 64).

According to international and regional human rights bodies and some constitutional courts, and as reflected in recent legal changes in several countries, these sterilization requirements run counter to respect for bodily integrity, self-determination and human dignity, and can cause and perpetuate discrimination against transgender and intersex persons (15, 64, 140, 141–146).

Intersex persons may be involuntarily subjected to so-called sex-normalizing or other procedures as infants or during childhood, which, in some cases, may result in the termination of all or some of their reproductive capacity. Children who are born with atypical sex characteristics are often subjected to cosmetic and other non-medically indicated surgeries performed on their reproductive organs, without their informed consent or that of their parents, and without taking into consideration the views of the children involved (64; 147, para 57; 148; 149). As a result, such children are being subjected to irreversible interventions that have lifelong consequence for their physical and mental health (64; 150, para 20; 151).

Medical procedures that might result in sterility may sometimes be justified because of benefits to health, including the reduction of cancer risk (152). Such treatments may be recommended for transgender or intersex persons; however, they may be proposed on the basis of weak evidence, without discussing alternative solutions that would retain the ability to procreate (151, 153–157). Parents often consent to surgery on behalf of their intersex children, including in circumstances where full information is lacking (151, 158, 159).

It has been recommended by human rights bodies, professional organizations and ethical bodies that full, free and informed consent should be ensured in connection with medical and surgical treatments for intersex persons (64, 150) and, if possible, irreversible invasive medical interventions should be postponed until a child is sufficiently mature to make an informed decision, so that they can participate in decision-making and give full, free and informed consent (15, 149). It has also been recommended that health-care professionals should be educated and trained about bodily diversity as well as sexual and related biological and physical diversity, and that professionals should properly inform patients and their parents of the consequences of surgical and other medical interventions (149; 150, para 20; 160–162).

Discrimination on the basis of gender identity has been recognized by international human rights bodies as a human rights violation. Human rights bodies have condemned the serious human rights violations to which transgender and intersex persons are subjected and have recommended that transgender and intersex persons should be able to access health services, including contraceptive services such as sterilization, on the same basis as others: free from coercion, discrimination and violence. They have also recommended the revision of laws to remove any requirements for compulsory sterilization of transgender persons (39, para 21; 163, para 32; 164; 165; 166).

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