Intersex variations, human rights, and the International Classification of Diseases

Health and Human Rights journal has published this peer-reviewed journal article by Morgan Carpenter.
Page last reviewed 2 April 2021

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This open access paper published by Harvard’s Health and Human Rights journal highlights how international clinical classifications facilitate or specify practices that violate the human rights of intersex people. It also provides some analysis of a recent Family Court case.

The ICD-11 introduces additional and pathologizing normative language to describe [intersex variations] as “disorders of sex development.” Current materials in the ICD-11 Foundation also specify, or are associated with, unnecessary medical procedures that fail to meet human rights norms documented by the WHO itself and Treaty Monitoring Bodies. This includes codes that require genitoplasties and gonadectomies associated with gender assignment, where either masculinizing or feminizing surgery is specified depending upon technical and heteronormative expectations for surgical outcomes. Such interventions lack evidence. Human rights defenders and institutions regard these interventions as harmful practices and violations of rights to bodily integrity, non-discrimination, equality before the law, privacy, and freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and experimentation. WHO should modify ICD-11 codes by introducing neutral terminology and by ensuring that all relevant codes do not specify practices that violate human rights.

Carpenter, Morgan. 2018. ‘Intersex Variations, Human Rights, and the International Classification of Diseases’. Health and Human Rights 20 (2): 205–14.

This publication was produced in connection with my studies at Sydney Health Ethics, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, and a short-term role with GATE.