Human rights lawyers congratulate the ACT on new laws protecting people with intersex variations

March 30, 2023

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) welcomes ground-breaking legislation developed by the ACT Government that will provide protection for Canberrans with innate variations of sex characteristics.

ALHR LGBTI Rights Co-chair, Georgia Burke said, “ALHR commends intersex advocates and allies who have pressed for these Australia first human rights reforms. The measures will protect intersex children from harm through forced, irreversible medical interventions such as sterilisation and genital normalising surgery – practises that are inconsistent with Australia’s international legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

“Medical procedures that modify a person’s sex characteristics must be decided by the person who is affected by the procedures, not solely by their parents or carers.”  

ALHR Vice President and Co-Chair of LGBTI Rights, Nicholas Stewart, said, “Across the world, human rights abuses against people with innate variations of sex characteristics include forced and coercive medical intervention, infanticide, discrimination in education, sport, employment and other services, and lack of access to justice and remedies.” 

“As far back as 2016 a number of United Nations treaty bodies, special procedures and regional human rights bodies adopted a joint statement calling on member States to urgently adopt measures to end violence and harmful practices against people with intersex variations. Australia has significant international obligations to protect people with intersex variations and the ACT Government is now the first in Australia to show it tak these obligations seriously.”

The ACT law will enact a range of reforms to support the new regime, to ensure that decisions are grounded in robust information, counselling and peer support. An oversight body made up of five people, supplemented by a sub-panel of three members to determine less contentious cases, will act as an entity to protect those who cannot consent. 

Mr Stewart explained, “The legislation aims to ensure children have options to decide for themselves what they want for their bodies at a later stage. It will not prevent intersex children from being given clinically necessary medical treatment. There are appropriate approval processes with robust safeguards to ensure urgent or emergency treatment.”

Ms Burke concluded, “ALHR commends the ACT Government for leading the way with these vital reforms and calls on all remaining  state and territory governments to introduce similar  laws  to prohibit unnecessary medical treatments on people with innate variations of sex characteristics until they can make the decision themselves.”

Media Contact: To arrange an interview with Georgia or Nicholas, please contact Matt Mitchell 

M: 0431 980 365 E:

Image credit: ILGA conference 2018, group photo to mark Intersex Awareness Day