Intersex advocates slam ‘corrective surgery’ conference

September 13th, 2011 by Ruth.Pearce

The IV World Congress on Hypospadias and Disorders of Sex Development (ISHID 2011) will be held in London this weekend. Intersex activists say that the event - which is to include a “live surgery” - will promote infant genital mutilation.

The conference has been organised by the International Society For Hypospadias and Intersex Disorders, a group that advocates surgical interventions for children born with genitals that appear to have both ‘female’ and ‘male’ aspects.

A number of the papers on the ISHID 2011 programme outline forms of reconstructive surgery that address medical issues with bladder or urethral function. Other sessions centre around ‘feminising’ surgeries that involving genital cutting; interventions that activists describe as ‘cosmetic’ and ‘normalising’. A “live surgery masterclass” will be held on the final day of the conference.

“Treating intersex bodies as ‘Disorders of Sex Development’ is discriminatory and unscientific,” researcher and human rights activist Y. Gavriel Ansara told Lesbilicious. “[The conference] and medical professionals who will be participating are in direct violation of binding international human rights legislation.”

“While surgical interventions are sometimes necessary to correct urethral or bladder issues, the [conference] fails to protect young people by failing to condemn surgeries for non-medical reasons” he added.

“Young people with intersex bodies, like all young people, have the right to genital autonomy, as interpreted by The Yogyakarta Principles. These medical professionals violate their Hippocratic Oath by placing profit above the welfare of young people.”

Conference attendees will also be discussing the prenatal use of the steroid dexamethasone to prevent the birth of children with sexually ambiguous genitals. Some clinicians claim that the drug can ‘prevent lesbianism’. A clinical trial conducted in 2007 suggested that dexamethasone may cause cognitive and behavioural difficulties in children.

“I call on medical and psychological professionals, particularly those working in paediatric specialties, to challenge these abuses by their colleagues and to boycott conferences and professionals engaging in these practices,” said Ansara.

Intersex activists and allies plan to protest outside the conference from Saturday 17th to Monday 19th September.


  • As a lesbian mother and a woman I am appalled at the planned Conference and the activites of so called “Dr’s”, that this can happen in the UK with the approval of the “establishment” is for me frankly so far outside what I consider to be acceptable behaviour especially when you consider the Human Rights of the Children upon whom they are operating and the rights of the unborn child to a sexuality that is NOT determined by medical interventions! I would like to know how this Conference has been allowed and if the Commission for Equality and Human Rights are aware of its content?
    I am disgusted that these “Dr’s” assume it is ok to behave in these ways I thought we had left this type of actions behind with the Nazis but evidently not!

    Jacqui Lovell ∼ September 13th, 2011 1:53 pm
  • Sex is defined as a newborn comes to life; no matter how much “normalizing” and “cosmetic” surgeries are done. Those doctors who perform such barbaries should understand the nefast consequences they IMPOSE (= dictatorship) on those “corrected”.
    I would like to see what would the “normal” sex people think if they were surgically corrected by definition to be left mutilated for the rest of their life. They would enrage. Guess what happens to people whose genitals have been surgically “corrected”. It’s inhuman. Nobody should dictate over the body of anyone else.

    Taki ∼ September 13th, 2011 4:41 pm
  • Intersex individuals should have a right to make up their own minds on reaching adulthood regarding whether to have surgery on their genitals to make them fit with social ideas of what a normal body looks like. Surgery on delicate genital tissue can permanently damage sensation, leaving the individual without the pleasures that many of us take for granted. Like female genital mutilation, this is all about regulating the body and making it conform to social norms regardless of the wishes of / effect on the individual.

    Wendy ∼ September 13th, 2011 5:27 pm
  • Thanks for spreading the word about the protests, very much appreciated!

    There will also be a public info meeting next Thursday 7 pm @ London Civil Rights & Arts Centre, The Monitoring Group, 37 Museum Street, London WC1A 1LH.

    Some more background info about the mutilations and the protests:

    By the way, for our campaign it’s important to frame the mutilations as medical crimes and gross human rights violations, namely of the right to physical integrity of the people concerned, and NOT as discrimination, thanks!

    Nella ∼ September 13th, 2011 7:35 pm
  • Break the binary. People can be what gender they choose. Let these infants choose when they reach adulthood, if they want to choose a specific gender at all. There is nothing wrong with being different. Why do some people just not get it?

    Carolyn ∼ September 14th, 2011 1:37 am
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