Healthcare for intersex people
When a baby is 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 sex to the child. There is no medical need for this surgery.
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 Aotearoa, Gender Minorities Aotearoa, the Human Rights Commission or the Health and Disability Advocacy Service (see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page).
Who makes decisions about surgery on intersex children?
A child’s legal guardians are responsible for decisions about their medical treatment, but this is not an absolute power. The child’s opinion should always be considered in these decisions. A child can express their opinion at any age, though it will hold more weight the older they get, and the more capable they are at expressing those opinions.
Specialised healthcare for intersex people
As well as general health needs, intersex people might need gender-affirming care, or to access healthcare often associated with only one sex: for example, you may need both prostate examinations and mammograms.
You may feel more comfortable going to a healthcare provider who has experience with other intersex patients. Intersex Aotearoa and Gender Minorities Aotearoa are two organisations that can help you find one in your area. For their contact details, see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page.