SA urged to follow Greece in banning intersex genital mutilation


Iranti’s Crystal Hendricks has called on President Ramaphosa and Parliament to protect South African children from intersex genital mutilation

Greece has become the 5th country in the world to ban intersex genital mutilation, a move that activists say South Africa should urgently emulate.

On Tuesday, the Greek Parliament voted in favour of the “Medically Assisted Reproduction Reforms Act”. The legislation bans medical interventions (including hormonal treatments and surgeries) that aim to partially or totally change the sex characteristics of intersex children, unless urgently needed for health reasons.

The practice, known as Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), is used by doctors to make the sex characteristics of intersex children, including babies, fit the binary of male or female anatomy.

Under the new law, medical interventions, including corrective surgeries or hormonal therapies, to change facial or body characteristics of intersex people over the age of 15 years will only be permitted if they give informed consent.

Greece joins Malta, Portugal, Germany and Iceland which have also banned IGM. In South Africa, intersex infants and children are still commonly subjected to IGM as a “sex normalising” practice.

LGBTIQ groups Iranti and Intersex South Africa (ISSA) welcomed Greece’s landmark decision and called on local lawmakers to follow its example and begin drafting legislation aimed at ending IGM in the country.

“In South Africa, we have a really great constitution that protects people’s human rights. However, this is not enough to stop the medical torture that intersex infants are facing on a daily basis,” says Crystal Hendricks, Intersex Rights Officer at Iranti.

“I really encourage the South African government, with the help of intersex people, to create policies that promote the rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination.”

Pana Makwati, Chairperson of ISSA, says: “Congratulations to Greece on making sure that they protect the rights of intersex people. South Africa, you need to take the lead in making sure that you end intersex genital mutilation so that everybody’s lives matter.”

The groups urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to put pressure on the Department of Health “to urgently meet with LGBTIQ organisations in order to also put an end to intersex genital mutilation in South Africa”.

They added: “There is no health risk to being intersex and Iranti and ISSA believe children should be allowed to decide for themselves what should happen to their bodies.”

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