UN rights council takes a stand against intersex discrimination


The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution Thursday on tackling discrimination against intersex persons, despite opposition from several countries to the terminology used.

The resolution passed in the 47-member council with 24 votes in favor, none against and 23 abstentions.

Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, and Japan and the United States were among the countries voting Yes.

Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates abstained.

The resolution, entitled "Combating discrimination, violence and harmful practices against intersex persons", was brought forward by Australia, Chile, Finland and South Africa.

"The resolution seeks to create awareness of the plight of intersex persons," South Africa's ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi said.

"Intersex persons face lifelong discrimination in various areas of their lives, including in sports, health and education.

"In extreme cases, this leads to violence and harmful practices such as forced castration, forced sterilization and even infanticide."

France's ambassador Jerome Bonnafont welcomed the council discussing the situation of intersex people for the first time, saying they were "too often the victims of rejection, by their family or society".

U.S. ambassador Michele Taylor called it a "landmark resolution" and a "historic juncture" for the U.N.'s top rights body.

The resolution recognizes that persons "with innate variations in sex characteristics, that is persons who are born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical definitions for male or female bodies, including sexual anatomy, reproductive organs and hormonal or chromosome patterns (also known as intersex persons) exist in all societies".

- Terminology debate -

Qatar's representative, speaking for the Arab Group members of the council, said they had presented constructive ideas "to make the text more balanced".

"The Human Rights Council is not the right platform for discussing this complex issue, especially given the medical aspects", he said.

"We wanted to change intersex persons to another description: persons with disorders in sex development. For us, this is the more scientific and medically appropriate description."

Bangladesh said the term intersex was "unknown in the national legal systems and social contexts of many member states", and the resolution "offers a vague and arbitrary definition of intersex persons".

Malaysia said the term intersex "is not universally recognized" and when translated into local languages could be derogatory and "do more harm than good".

Meanwhile China said the resolution should respect traditions in various countries.

The resolution recognizes that intersex persons "may face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination in all areas of life", and voices grave concern about the "violence and harmful practices" they face, "including medically unnecessary or deferrable interventions, which may be irreversible".

The resolution encourages states to enhance efforts to combat discrimination, violence and harmful practices, "such as stereotypes, the spread of misconceptions and inaccurate information, stigma and taboo".

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