UPDATE 2: We received a telling (non-)answer by GEO (see below) – one day after the UK was asked about intersex children by the UN Committee against Torture …
UPDATE 1: Contributions to the ‘Call for evidence’ sent to the dedicated GEO email account were not read, but ‘archived away’?!
‘Until there is a change in the law, we’ll continue cutting’ – Dr I. Mushtaq (GOSH, UCL) Photo: Peaceful protest outside the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, host of the infamous ‘ISHID 2011 Live Surgeries’, with Open Letter to GOSH, ISHID and RCS. (Arguably one example of the ‘[h]istorical [!] experience of live teaching surgeries and medical photography’ mentioned in GEO’s ‘Technical Paper, p. 11 –> p. 13 of PDF.)
The ‘Call for evidence on the experiences of people who have variations in sex characteristics’ of the UK Government Equalities Office (GEO) is now closed.
Unfortunately, so far GEO’s ‘evidence-gathering exercise’ is completely ignoring human rights.
Which is the more shameful, as recently the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) both reprimanded the UK for Intersex Genital Mutilations (IGM), explicitly obliging the Government to ‘[p]rovide redress to the victims of such treatment’ (CRC) and to ‘[e]stablish measures to ensure equal access to justice’ for IGM survivors (CRPD).
Intersex NGO StopIGM.org therefore sent the Government Equalities Office a >>> Letter of Concern about Disregard of Human Rights Implications in the ‘Call for Evidence’ (PDF), noting the total absence of any reference to applicable human rights, as well as the total absence of any human rights-related questions in the survey, namely to access to justice and rehabilitation, despite that these are crucial issues for many IGM survivors.
Daniela Truffer, IGM survivor and co-founder StopIGM.org:
‘I’ve seen the pattern before: Once the government can no longer simply deny the harmful and unnecessary genital surgeries perpetrated on intersex children, because they have been called out by human rights bodies, they’ll start a lengthy investigation. During its course, human rights concerns are conveniently brushed aside, same as IGM survivors and their legitimate grievances. Instead, the proceedings focus unduly on doctors, parents, and LGBT politics. In the end, the government will propose some 3rd gender legislation mostly benefiting trans people, while continuing to turn a blind eye to the daily mutilations of intersex children, paid for by the NHS. So far, unfortunately the UK Government Equalities Office ticks every box along the way.’
The Letter of Concern further acknowledges it’s a good thing that the UK Government, according to GEO’s ‘Technical Paper’ (PDF), is now officially ‘aware of calls from some UK stakeholders to end the practice of what they describe as “medically unnecessary interventions”‘, and aims to fill ‘evidence gaps’ to better ‘understand the nature and scale of the issue’. The Letter also references the most important intersex human rights obligations arising from the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (p. 4-6).
Last but not least, the Letter of Concern – delivered to GEO via email last Thursday – kindly asks for an ‘explanation why the Government Equalities Office so far seems to fail to adequately consider intersex human rights, namely the non-derogable rights to protection from harmful practices, and to justice, redress and rehabilitation.’
So far, GEO has not yet acknowledged the receipt of the the Letter …
UPDATE 1: When after weeks we still didn’t receive at least a confirmation of the receipt of our Letter of Concern from GEO, for safety we re-sent the letter on 23.04.2019 asking if it arrived safely.
While thereafter we finally received an acknowledgement, unfortunately we also had to learn that contributions to the ‘Call for evidence’ sent to the dedicated GEO email account for the ‘Call’ were not read by GEO, but instead ‘archived away’ … The full explanation given stated, ‘Apologies, I don’t believe your previous email was seen, as we moved Departments not long after and a few emails were archived away.’
At least we were further promised that our Letter will now be ‘forwarded […] on to the relevant colleague’, however, so far we still have to hear back from this person. Which leaves us to wonder, how many other contributions to the ‘Call’ via email were also tacitly ‘archived away’?
UPDATE 2: Coincidentally on the same day the UK gave a telling (non-)answer on IGM to the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva, we finally received a similarly telling (non-)answer from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) to our Letter of Concern:
From: <d[…]y_at_cabinetoffice.gov.uk> on behalf of “GEO.CORRESPONDENCE_at_cabinetoffice.gov.uk” <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, 8 May 2019 at 18:16
Cc: “GEO.CORRESPONDENCE Mailbox” <geo.correspondence_at_cabinetoffice.gov.uk>
Subject: Fwd: COGEO-000119 – Reply – DID YOU GET OUR MAIL? Fwd: Concern about Disregard of Human Rights Implications in the “Call for Evidence”
Dear Daniela Truffer, Markus Bauer,
Thank you for your letter of 24 April regarding human rights concerns and the Call for Evidence on Variations in Sex Characteristics. I am responding on behalf of the Minister for Women and Equalities.
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) launched a call for evidence to provide everyone in the United Kingdom, especially people with variations in sex characteristics, with an opportunity to engage with Government and to tell us in detail about their experiences and what they think Government could or should be doing to improve their lives.
In your letter, you express concern that the call for evidence made no mention of human rights. The scope and design of the survey was specifically aimed at understanding the experiences of people with variations in sex characteristics; including, but not limited to, their experiences of healthcare, education, support services and documentation.
We have acknowledged that although we have some understanding of the key issues from our engagement with stakeholders, the existing evidence has a number of gaps. As you highlight in your letter, we are aware of calls to end the practice of what they describe as ‘medically unnecessary interventions’. However, before taking any steps, we must understand the nature and scale of the issue. In order for the Government to make informed decisions about potential policy interventions to meet the needs of people who have variations in sex characteristics, we are acutely aware of the need to strengthen the evidence base, hence launching the call for evidence as a first step.
We are currently analysing the results of the survey, and our response will be published in due course.
Government Equalities Office
Now judge for yourself, which of today’s 2 (non-)answers makes the more compelling argument whether the UK government really wants to urgently protect intersex children from harmful surgery – or rather not:
The one issued on behalf of GEO to our Letter of Concern (see above) – or the one issued on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care to the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva?
To be continued …
>>> Letter of Concern to GEO about Disregard of Human Rights Implications (PDF)
IGM in the UK: UN-CRC NGO Report
Human Rights Violations Of Persons With Variations Of Reprod. Anatomy
IGM – Most Common Forms • What is Intersex? • A Harmful Practice
>>> Download (PDF 3.60 MB)
>>> Genital mutilation on the NHS: UN-CRC reprimands UK + Nepal
IGM in the UK: UN-CRPD Follow-Up NGO Report
Human Rights Violations Of Children With Variations Of Reprod. Anatomy
Impunity • International IGM Networks in the UK • Testimonies
>>> Download as PDF (369 kb) | DOC (552 kb)
>>> UK, Morocco: UN-CRPD slams intersex genital mutilation on the NHS – again!
• “Harmful Medical Practice”: UN, COE, ACHPR, IACHR condem IGM
• 40 UN Reprimands for IGM – and counting …
• UN Committee for the Rights of the Child (CRC): IGM = Harmful Practice + Violence
• UN Committee against Torture (CAT) 2015: IGM = Inhuman Treatment or Torture
• UN Women’s Rights Committee (CEDAW): IGM = Harmful Practice
• UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): Violation of Integrity
• UN Human Rights Committee (HRCttee) condemns IGM Practices
IGM as a Harmful Practice: 2015 UN-CRC Briefing
• IGM: A Survivor’s Perspective • Intersex Movement History
• What are Variations of Sex Anatomy? • What are IGM Practices?
• IGM and Human Rights • Conclusion: IGM is a Harmful Practice
>>> Download PDF (3.14 MB) >>> Table of Contents
Eliminating IGM practices by holding the perpetrators accountable via well-established applicable human rights frameworks, including Inhuman Treatment and Harmful Practices – Presentation @ UN expert meeting on Intersex Human Rights
>>> Download PDF (831kb)