ACT passes landmark bill for individuals with variations in sex characteristics

This marks the country's first legislation to protect the rights and choices of intersex people

ACT passes landmark bill for individuals with variations in sex characteristics

The ACT Legislative Assembly has passed the Variations in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023, the country's first bill to protect the rights and choices of people with variations in sex characteristics.

This legislation marks the first time an Australian government has taken concrete steps to address the recommendations of multiple international human rights bodies regarding intersex human rights. Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne highlighted the historic nature of this legislation and called on other jurisdictions to follow the ACT's lead, extending these crucial protections to intersex individuals across Australia.

The Variations in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023 is specifically designed to empower individuals with variations in sex characteristics to exercise their autonomy in making decisions about non-essential medical treatments that affect their bodies once they can do so.

The bill is part of a broader reform effort that includes substantial investments in new services, including the establishment of the Variation in Sex Characteristics Psychosocial Support Unit at Canberra Hospital, which will have specialist staff to provide support to intersex individuals and their families. Additionally, the government will offer training packages and resources to healthcare professionals providing services to this community.

Furthermore, work is already underway to establish a new statutory oversight scheme and support for parents and families of intersex children to navigate decisions and treatment pathways for their children.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr expressed his pride in the ACT's leading role in protecting the rights and choices of individuals with variations in sex characteristics. He hopes that other jurisdictions will take inspiration from this legislation and follow suit.

"This is a law to support Canberrans, but we hope its impact leads to changes elsewhere in how intersex people are treated in medical settings and society more broadly," Barr said.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith emphasised the potential negative consequences of deferrable and unnecessary medical interventions on children with variations in sex characteristics. She said, "this legislation creates an additional layer of safeguarding to ensure that, where treatments can safely be deferred, this is done."

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