The practice of putting intersex children through surgery to have their anatomy rearranged before they’re of age to consent is currently under fire, with various groups urging Congress to ban such procedures.
For years, children whose sexual features don’t match the norm have been getting surgery to realign their anatomies, so that they can more closely resemble typical boys and girls, Chicago Tribune reports. This is often done while the kids are young, and therefore are not old enough to have a say in the decision.
Now, the American Medical Association, Human Rights Watch and InterACT are advocating for parents to discourage this practice. A detailed report from Human Rights Watch and InterACT states, “The results are often catastrophic.” It emphasizes how surgeries can “inflict irreversible physical and psychological harm.”
Kyle Knight from Human Rights Watch says,
The pressure to fit in and live a ‘normal’ life is real. But there is no evidence that surgery delivers on the promise of making that easier.
One of the many reasons why surgery of this sort should be discouraged is that some intersex children who are reassigned as male or female may grow up to identify with the opposite sex, which would bring on extensive trauma.
Intersex is a broad term used to refer to different conditions wherein internal sex organs and external genitalia develop differently than usual. According to experts, roughly one out of every 2,000 babies has a difference in sex development that might prompt a doctor to recommend surgery or similar interventions.
In 2015, the practice was condemned by several United Nations agencies, along with vocal opposition from international parties. Malta became the first country to ban these surgeries.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that it is currently reviewing the issue, as it wants parents to clearly understand the risks and benefits of putting their child through the process. Its Board of Trustees is proposing a new policy that urges doctors not to conduct intersex surgeries on babies and young kids “except when life-threatening circumstances require emergency intervention.”
Former surgeons general Joycelyn Elders, David Satcher and Richard Carmona have added their weight to the issue, saying, “We hope that professionals and parents who face this difficult decision will heed the growing consensus that the practice should stop.”