Australian Human Rights Commission: Ensuring health and bodily integrity

Congratulations to the Australian Human Rights Commission for this report, published in October 2021, on protecting the health and human rights of people born with variations of sex characteristics.
Page last reviewed 20 November 2021

A detail from the cover of the Commission's report
The Australian Human Rights Commission has published its report of an inquiry into protecting the human rights of people born with variations of sex characteristics in medical settings.

I was a member of the expert reference group for this inquiry, and I would like to thank former Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow for commencing this project, and President Ros Croucher for completing it.

The report states that:

‘Normalising’ interventions have been understood by both people born with variations in sex characteristics and those around them as meaning that their bodies are undesirable or problematic. This can fuel stigma and shame. The Commission agrees that ‘normalising’ interventions appear to exacerbate a cycle of stigma about bodily diversity, thereby being used to justify further medical interventions.

The report recognises that people with innate variations of sex characteristics have been subject to ongoing human rights abuses. It builds on the vital work of the intersex movement and allies, and a 2013 cross-party Senate report.

It identifies key problems with current clinical practice, including lack of evidence, a reliance on psychosocial rationales that are better addressed by peer support and other forms of support, and a lack of attention to concerns raised by psychological and psychiatric professionals. In its recommendations, it recognises that criminal penalties and oversight are necessary to protect the human rights of children with variations of sex characteristics in medical settings, and it calls for more action on redress and resourcing.

On the occasion of its launch, I commented that: “Today we’re calling on state, territory and Commonwealth governments to act to end these abuses. We need new laws that recognise our right to decide what happens to our own bodies.”

Find out more about work to reform legislation and medical practice at

Read the Commission’s report at