UN Economic and Social Council

Commission on Human Rights

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  1. Ms. CABRAL (MADRE), speaking on the issue of intersexuality in the context of the right to health, said that the term “intersexuality” covered a wide variety of situations in which a person’s genitals did not correspond to current social, cultural and political stereotypes. In conventional medicine, such persons were considered to have ambiguous, deformed or pathological genitalia. For the intersex movement and its human rights allies, the difference in genital appearance did not imply the existence of a deformation or pathology. Studies had shown that at least one in every 2,500 people was born with genitalia that differed from the stereotypes. Many of those people would be subjected to medically superfluous and mutilating cosmetic surgery soon after birth, during childhood or even during adolescence. Intersex people were often denied access to the records of such surgery.
  2. The attempt to transform intersexual bodies into culturally acceptable ones was a violation of bodily integrity. Interventions that changed legal gender and bodily shape and sensitivity should not be conducted without informed consent. Genital mutilation of intersex children caused post-surgical trauma and the internalization of prejudice that stigmatized the diversity of the human body. Mutilation did not normalize but constituted a human rights violation with lifelong implications.
  3. Invoking the right to health, she called for a review of medical practices relating to intersexuality and the adoption of concrete measures to eliminate genital mutilation of intersex children.
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This is the first document of a UN human rights body that refers to intersex and the violation of the rights of intersex persons.

Summary record of the 29th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Wednesday, 31 March 2004 : Commission on Human Rights, 60th session. Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Wednesday, 31 March 2004, at 9 a.m

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) was a commission within the United Nations from 1946 until it was replaced by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2006. It was a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and was also assisted in its work by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR). It was the UN’s principal mechanism and international forum concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights.