Tamil Nadu Government Order Bans Surgeries on Intersex Infants – 2019

Background

The Health & Family Welfare Department for the State of Tamil Nadu issue a government order (GO) on 13th August, 2o19 banning sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) on intersex infants and children except on life-threatening situations.

The GO came as a directive in the judgment delivered by the Madras High Court in Arunkumar & Sreeja vs. The Inspector General of Registration & Others. While the petition was related to issues of marriage registration of trans persons, Justice G.R. Swaminathan took up the issue of forced SRS surgeries on intersex infants and children. The Court pointed out that according to the judgement in S. Amutha v C. Manivanna Bhupathy consent of a parent cannot be considered as the consent of the child and as held in NALSA no one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity.

The Court directed the Government of Tamil Nadu to issue a Government Order to ban SRS on intersex infants and children.

The Government Order

The order defines intersex persons as follows:

“The term intersex refers to people born with physical and biological sex characteristics that are more diverse than stereotypical definitions for male and female bodies.”

The order also acknowledges that there is a huge diversity among intersex people with around 40 different recognized types of intersex variation. The order also recognizes that intersex variations can be “picked up” at any point in a persons life and is not always obvious at birth. The order also acknowledges the plurality of the intersex experience.

The Order relies on WHO’s Report on “Sexual Health Human Rights & Law”  that details the violence and trauma suffered by intersex persons throughout their lifetime due to unnecessary medical interventions that are forced upon them. Worst among these interventions is the so-called sex normalizing procedures that are conducted on infants without their consent. The order recognizes that such surgeries are rarely ever done to prevent life-threatening conditions and without consideration of alternatives.

The order after examination of all the above points and based on the opinions of experts as forwarded by the Director of Medical Education, pronounces a ban SRS on intersex infants and children except on life-threatening situations and orders accordingly.

The exception of a life-threatening situation shall be decided by the Government based on the recommendation of the Director of Medical Education who shall form a committee comprising:

  1. Pediatric Surgeon/Urologist
  2. Endocrinologist
  3. Social Worker/Psychology Worker/Intersex Activist
  4. A Government Representative in the rank of Under-Secretary to the Government or higher

The Order additionally states that it is the responsibility of the Director of Medical Education, Chennai to ensure that above exception clause should be misused in any way which could affect the ban on SRS surgeries on children and infants.

You can read the complete Order here.