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Individual rights & freedoms

Gender and gender identity

Intersex people

The law doesn’t say much about intersex people

“Intersex” is an umbrella term that’s used to describe people born with variations of sex characteristics (such as hormones, chromosomes, genitals and internal reproductive organs) that don’t clearly fit binary notions (meaning it’s one or the other) of male or female bodies.

There’s not much in the law that talks explicitly about intersex people and their experiences. However, the Human Rights Commission hosted a Roundtable in 2017 that made recommendations including law and policy changes.

Discrimination against intersex people

Human Rights Act 1993, s 21(1)(a)

The law protects people from discrimination based on their sex or gender, and the Human Rights Commission thinks that this includes being intersex. So that would mean that no-one can discriminate against you in areas like housing, education, employment, or goods and services just because you’re intersex, and the government can’t discriminate against you in its decision or actions. This point has not really been tested by the courts in New Zealand.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against because you are intersex, you can contact the Human Rights Commission for advice: see ‘Where to go for more support‘ for details, and for more information about discrimination law, see the chapter “Discrimination”.

Surgery on intersex babies and children: Who can give permission for this?

Darlington Statement, 2017

When a baby is born and identified as intersex, some parents, whānau or medical staff might want the child to have genital surgery as part of assigning a female or male gender to the child.

Care of Children Act 2004; Case: [2008] 1 NZLR 409

In general, parents are legally allowed to make all medical decisions for their children until they are old enough to make decisions for themselves. There is no specific age at which children can make their own decisions, as the law says it depends on the particular child and their ability to understand what’s going on.

Calls to ban surgery on intersex babies and children

There have been calls for a law change that prevents those surgeries and affirms the rights of intersex people to make these decisions about their bodies for themselves when they’re old enough to do so. These calls have come from intersex community organisations and from two United Nations committees reporting on New Zealand’s human rights performance.

The Darlington Statement, a joint statement made by Australian and New Zealand intersex organisations and advocates in 2017, suggests that genital surgery on intersex babies and children should be a crime. It argues for greater human rights and recognition for people with diverse sex characteristics.

For free advice on your own situation, as an intersex person who has had surgery as a child, or as a parent or friend of a child who might potentially be operated on, you can contact Intersex Awareness New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission or the Health and Disability Advocacy Service. See “Where to go for more support” for details.

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Gender and sexuality

Where to go for more support

Legal information

“Lag Law: Your Rights Inside Prison and on Remand” booklet

This booklet contains practical answers to common questions relating to prisoner rights, including transgender rights in prison. A useful guide for people going to prison, in prison, or getting out of prison and their whānau.

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley

Phone: (04) 499 2928

Email: publications@wclc.org.nz

Visit www.communitylaw.org.nz to buy a copy or access free

Rainbow Rights


Rainbow Rights is a website developed by Rainbow Youth and YouthLaw (a Community Law Centre) to provide legal information about rights for LQBTIQ young people.

Legislation NZ


This has all of New Zealand’s current Acts and regulations.

Law Society

To find a lawyer


(04) 472 7837

Gender Minorities Aotearoa


Phone: (04) 385 0611

Mobile: 02040492568

GMA maintains a national database of transgender, takatāpui, and intersex information, resources, and links.




InsideOUT is a national organisation that provides workshops, resources and support to help make schools, community organisations and workplaces inclusive for rainbow people.

Rainbow Youth


(09) 376 4155

RainbowYOUTH provides a number of services for queer and gender-diverse youth and their wider communities all across Aotearoa.



Genderbridge is a peer-to-peer transgender community organisation providing support to transgender and gender-diverse people, their whānau and friends throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Naming NZ


Naming NZ is an organisation to help transgender, gender-diverse and intersex youth with updating their identity documents to correctly reflect their sex and gender. Naming NZ can only provide financial assistance to youth in the Wellington region.

Government departments, agencies and courts

Department of Internal Affairs


0800 25 78 87

The Department of Internal Affairs processes applications to legally change your name.

Family Court


0800 268 787 or (04) 918 8800

The Family Court make decisions about applications to change your sex on your birth certificate.

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children

International Surrogacy – Fact sheet


Human Rights Commission


You can contact the Human Rights Commission if you want to know more about discrimination and human rights, or if you want to complain about discrimination:

0800 496 877 or text 0210 236 4253


“To Be Who I Am”, 2007 Report of the Inquiry into Discrimination Experienced by Transgender People is available on the HRC website

Human Rights Commission Intersex Roundtable


NZ Transport Agency


0800 822 422

The NZTA deals with changes to drivers’ licences, including changing your name or gender on your driver’s licence.

Ministry of Health

Guidance for health professionals


Gender affirming surgery


Health and Disability Advocacy Service


The Health and Disability Advocacy Service can provide a free advocate to help you make a complaint about a health or disability service.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Guide about Transgender Employees


Department of Corrections

Placement of transgender prisoners

You can read their policy (Movements M.03.05) relating to placement of transgender prisoners on their website, at:


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