Press Release – Launch of the Good Practice Map 2021
Today, on the 17th of May 2022, OII Europe is proud to present its 2021 Good Practice Map! The map highlights advancement achieved in 2021 towards the better protection of intersex human rights across Europe.
This year’s Good Practice Map features a new section, “In the Making”. This section features newly adopted IGM legislation and analyses their protective elements as well as the still existing gaps and inconsistencies. In addition, a new page on the OII Europe website serves as an extended version of the map’s new section. This page* will be updated periodically to display legislative advancements related to the banning of non-vital, non-emergency medical interventions on intersex children in Europe.
In addition, the map presents good practice examples related to
- anti-discrimination law,
- hate crime & hate speech legislation,
- national action plans,
- research projects,
- training programs,
- official apologies issued by governments,
- as well as commitments made by governments pointing towards increased political will to protect intersex rights.
“We are observing a growing will among European governments to combat violence against intersex persons”, says Dan Christian Ghattas, Executive Director of OII Europe. “Two countries, Germany and Iceland, have established legislation on IGM and while both laws, unfortunately, do not ensure comprehensive protection yet, they prove that the violation of intersex children’s bodily integrity is considered a serious problem in both countries and for this we strongly applaud both. However, as long as these laws are not based on the premise of self-determination and inclusive of all children with variations of sex characteristics, they will fail in ensuring the comprehensive protection and protection of all intersex children from harmful medical practices. We therefore encourage both governments to consider these laws as a first important step but to further improve them in the near future. The new ‘In the making’ section of this year’s map, together with the more in-depth analysis on the new page on our OII Europe website, aim to support governments in this process and to help those countries who are considering establishing a ban on IGM.”
“2021 has been a year of progress in many areas”, adds Magda Rakita, Co-Chair of OII Europe. “By introducing ‘sex characteristics’ as a protective ground in their anti-discrimination legislation, Denmark and Serbia have taken an important step towards protecting intersex persons in every-day life, as have Scotland and, again, Denmark, by adding ‘sex characteristics’ to their hate crime and hate speech legislation. These trends show that more and more countries consider ‘sex characteristics’ as the adequate ground to protect intersex people.”
“We also are excited to see that, as recommended by OII Europe and its member organisations, decision makers are increasingly including intersex-led organisations in the development of such measures”, continues Kristian Ranđelović, Co-Chair of OII Europe. “Finland, for example, has involved the national intersex organisation ISIO in the implementation of the National Child Strategy. Other countries, such as Austria and Greece, are increasingly relying on intersex-led organisations’ expertise for delivering training on intersex issues with a human rights-based perspective. We and our member organisations celebrate these collaborations as an important step towards ensuring that the fundamental rights of intersex persons are upheld.”
“OII Europe’s member organisations work tirelessly year-round to advance and protect the human rights of intersex persons across Europe”, adds Irene Kuzemko, Community & Capacity Building Officer. “The resiliency and determination of intersex organisations and activists is vital to ensure the survival and growth of the European intersex movement. The launch of the 2021 Good Practice Map, therefore, is also a moment to acknowledge the fact that intersex organisations across Europe continue to face significant challenges in the face of growing anti-LGBTI forces online and offline, all whilst mitigating the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 crisis.”
OII Europe therefore encourages stakeholders and funders to increase their financial support of intersex organisations, so as to ensure that movement-building can continue far into the future. Activists need to be able to continue their incredible efforts in a way that supports their wellbeing, prevents burnout and fosters sustainability.
# END #
* In The Making: https://oiieurope.org/igm-legal/
Content of the Good Practice Map 2021
In May 2021 the parliament of the Republic of Serbia amended the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination and included sex characteristics among the protected grounds, in areas such as employment, health, goods & services, education.
In December 2021 the Danish parliament extended non-discrimination legislation to intersex people.
It expanded accordingly the mandate of
- the Equal Treatment Board, which deals with discrimination complaints
- Denmark’s National Human Rights Institution, that supports victims, conducts independent investigations, publishes reports and makes recommendations.
These good practice examples highlight that adding sex characteristics as a specific ground:
- Ensures explicit protection and legal certainty
- Increases awareness and acceptance among the general public.
Serbia: Law https://www.propisi.net/zakon-o-zabrani-diskriminacije/
Press Release https://www.lgbti-era.org/news/finally-visible
Denmark: Law https://www.retsinformation.dk/eli/lta/2021/2591
Hate crime & speech
In March 2021, the Scottish parliament passed the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021. The Act includes “variations in sex characteristics” among the grounds for “aggravation of offences by prejudice” and of the offence “stirring up hatred”. It requires the Ministers to publish yearly reports on convictions, with information about the offence and which characteristic(s) relate to it.
In December 2021 the Danish parliament amended hate crime & speech legislation, by adding sex characteristics:
- To the bias motivations which “must generally be included as an aggravating circumstance”
- To the grounds which make the refusal to serve a person – on the same terms as others in a professional or non-profit activity – an offence
- To hate speech grounds.
These good practice examples highlight that legislation should:
- Address the reality and serious nature of bias-motivated violence and speech against intersex people
- Increase data collection efforts.
Denmark: Law https://www.retsinformation.dk/eli/lta/2021/2591
In June 2021, the Greek government published the National Strategic Plan on LGBTQI+ equality, which recognised for the first time some intersex human rights violations, such as IGM. Intersex Greece, which had submitted a detailed report, encourages the Government to address other areas in its future work, e.g. education, employment, access to health, hate speech.
In October 2021, the Finnish government published the first implementation plan for the National Child Strategy, containing measures to secure the wellbeing of children.
The intersex organisation ISIO will have a seat on the panel in charge of developing a uniform model for the provision of first information to families, where it will spur a human rights based approach and accentuate psychosocial support.
These good practice examples highlight that:
- Consulting intersex-led organisations is essential
- First steps can be taken from the government in any country to protect intersex people’s rights.
Greece: National Strategic Plan – https://bit.ly/3rlr9AT
Finland: Child Strategy – https://www.lapsenoikeudet.fi/en/campaign/national-strategy-for-children/
Implementation plan – https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/handle/10024/163541
Intersex Greece got its project “Combating hate speech against intersex populations in Greece” funded by ILGA. It will yield a report and a plan on how to combat hate speech against intersex people in the country. It is the first intersex inclusive research in Greece, as intersex people are involved in all stages including the design of research tools.
In France the Gender Institute and the Interministerial Delegation for the Fight against Racism, Anti-Semitism and Anti-LGBT Hatred (DILCRAH) financed RéFRI (Réseau Francophone de Recherche sur l’Intersexuation) for it to hold a summer seminar and to create a bibliographic inventory of francophone research about intersex.
These good practice examples highlight the importance of funding intersex-led and intersex inclusive research
- The European Commission launched a “Study on Intersex people in the EU” with results expected by the end of 2022.
- INIA – Intersex: New Interdisciplinary Approaches – is an EU funded international research network. OII Europe seats in the advisory board.
France: Facebook Event page – https://bit.ly/3rltThC
Austrian intersex-led organisation VIMÖ held up to 60 workshops, consultations and speeches on the topic of intersex human rights, commissioned by private universities, companies and public institutions including:
- Public Employment Service Austria
- (AMS – Arbeitsmarktservice)
- Medical University Vienna
- Ärztekammer Oberösterreich
- (Austrian Medical Chamber of Upper Austria)
- Health University of Applied Sciences Tyrol
- Österreichisches Hebammen-Gremium
- (Austrian Midwives Board)
- The (administrative) staff of Johannes Kepler University Linz
- TU Wien (Vienna University of Technology)
- The University of Applied Sciences Campus Vienna
- The executives of Österreichische Post AG
- (the Austrian postal service company)
And many others!
Intersex Greece has been delivering lectures at Universities and colleges on intersex rights for a while. Following the publication of the National Strategic Plan on LGBTQI+ equality and as a result of the submission sent by Intersex Greece, five members of Intersex Greece have been included in the list of tutors of the National Centre for Public Administration and Local Government of Greece. They will be delivering trainings to civil servants with a goal of educating professionals and public institutions on intersex issues from the human rights perspective.
These good practice examples highlight that :
- Intersex-led organisations have the expertise and the capacity to give training to a wide range of entities
- Proper compensation for training is necessary to acknowledge that expertise and to ensure sustainability.
What else: VIMÖ participated in the creation of the „Geschlechtersensible Sprache – Dialog auf Augenhöhe“ (Gender Sensitive Speech – Dialogue on Equal Terms) language sensitivity guide, published by the Ombuds office.
Language sensitivity guide:
On 27 November 2021, the Dutch government made a public apology for the effects of the old law on adjusting gender registration, which previously imposed upon trans and intersex people who wished to change their gender marker the obligation to undergo mandatory medical treatment, including genital surgery, hormone treatment and sterilisation. Minister Van Engelshoven apologized on behalf of the Cabinet of the Netherlands during a ceremony in The Hague, and called past requirements dehumanizing.
This good practice example highlights that public apologies from the Government:
- Are an important form of reparation
- Send a clear message to society about the obligation to respect the dignity of trans and intersex people.
- Concerns remain around the compensation scheme: its amount is too low and was not determined in consultation with CSOs.
Who else: Austria – In June 2021 the Minister of Justice made an official apology statement to LGBTIQ people.
Netherlands: Video of the speech: https://bit.ly/3uxPQw5
Austria: Video of the speech: https://bit.ly/3rgjbcw
The new German government took office in 2021 and in its coalition contract the governing parties committed to several actions to improve the situation of intersex, trans and queer people, including:
- Installing a Queer Coordinator position
- Proposing a “self-determination law” (including making a gender marker change possible in principle by self-disclosure)
- Establishing a compensation fund for trans and intersex people affected by bodily harm or forced divorce due to previous legislation
- Improving the law for the protection of children with “variants of sex development”, to eliminate opportunities for circumvention. → See section In the making
This good practice example highlights that:
Strong commitment and political will are a necessary first step to drive policy reforms
Written pledges, such as a coalition contract, are one way to hold the government accountable.
IN THE MAKING: PUT AN END TO IGM
On 11 February 2021, the Belgian House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the federal government to create “a legislative framework protecting the physical integrity of intersex minors” by ensuring:
- “the prohibition of any decision to change the sex characteristics of a minor without their fully informed consent, whether for social, psycho-social, cultural or aesthetic reasons”, with the exception of medical necessity and emergency situations
- the inclusion of intersex-led NGOs in the development of all measures
- measures about data collection, awareness raising, training, protection of intersex asylum seekers and migrants.
Further points that should have been addressed for more comprehensive protection include:
- Depathologisation, starting with the terminology used
- Access to medical records and extended retention time
- Legal sanctions and extension of statutes of limitation
- Access to expert sensitive counselling.
As the resolution is not binding, a legislative act must follow now to give it due course.
In January 2021, a law regulating interventions on intersex minors entered into force in Iceland. It stipulates that if the child is incapable of giving consent, an intervention can only be performed if health needs so require.
It also sets up a ministerial committee in charge of approving interventions.
A working group must be formed within the following three years to review the law.
A major problem is the explicit exclusion of certain intersex variations from protection, that in the medical environment are designated as pathologies within the binary model i.e. “hypospadias” and “micropenis”. It is also regrettable that potentially any health needs – not limited to only urgent ones – are considered as reasons for intervening.
Act 154/2020 https://www.althingi.is/altext/stjt/2020.154.html
which amends Act 80/2019 https://www.althingi.is/lagas/nuna/2019080.html
Official English translation:
On 12 May 2021 in Germany a law was adopted “on the protection of children with variants of sex development”. The framework it sets out to preserve intersex children from non-vital, non-emergency medical interventions is not yet comprehensive, and some obstacles persist in the way towards full protection.
The law makes treatments solely performed for aligning the intersex child’s body to a more normative appearance and without their fully informed consent unlawful. While it requires the approval of the family court for surgical interventions that “cannot be postponed” until the child can decide for themselves.
The text extends the retention period for medical records; provides for an interdisciplinary commission to issue an opinion; provides for an evaluation of the law after 5 years.
!!! Main obstacles towards full protection:
!!! Lack of universality – pathologizing stance
- The medical term ‘variants of sex development’ excludes from protection intersex children who, from a current medical perspective, do not fall under this definition. It also perpetuates a pathologizing perspective.
!!! Risk of interventions in the lack of health needs
- Interventions that may be approved include those “necessary to cure or eliminate a functional disorder or to preserve the ability to reproduce, without there being any real risk to health at the present time, even if they have the effect of altering physical appearance”.
- The “consolidated wish” of the child, even if they are incapable of giving informed consent, may also justify an intervention; this carries the risk of misuse due to still existing social pressure.
- The law does not differentiate between physical and potential (presumed) mental health needs.
!!! Composition of the interdisciplinary commission
- The majority can still consist of staff of the same health care facility.
- The involvement of a peer counsellor is not mandatory.
German Law: https://bit.ly/3jxESk2
Webpage “In The Making”
You can find a more detailed overview to this topic on the following live webpage that is being updated periodically with new developments: