In a first, TN govt bans sex reassignment surgeries on inter
In a progressive move, the Tamil Nadu government has banned sex reassignment surgeries on intersex infants and children. In a Government Order (GO) released earlier this month, the state government quoted a World Health Organisation report, that clearly says that such “sex normalising procedures” are medically unnecessary and often irreversible, with lifelong consequences for the physical and mental health of the intersex person.

‘Intersex’ is a term used for persons who are born with variations in sex charecteristics, that do not conform to what we typically think of as ‘male’ or ‘female’. For instance, they may have genitals that are not typically male or female; or their chromosomes may not be ‘xx’ or ‘xy’; or they may have hormonal variations that are not typically understood as ‘male’ or ‘female’. In several cases, doctors and parents perform surgeries on intersex infants and children to make them ‘conform’ to male or female gender – however, these surgeries are medically unnecessary, and can be harmful to the children. Experts have maintained that intersex children should be allowed to grow up and decide what they would like to do with their bodies.

Now, with this GO, Tamil Nadu has become the first state in India to ban such surgeries. The GO follows two important judgments: In 2014, the Supreme Court in the landmark NALSA judgment had said that such surgeries on infants and children should be banned; and earlier this year, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had reiterated the Supreme Court’s stand, and suo motu asked the Secretary of Health and Family Department to ensure that this is done in the state.

The GO has been welcomed by activists from the LGBTQI+ community. “It’s a positive step, but there are certain gaps that need to be addressed,” said intersex activist Gopi Shankar, who had written to the Health Ministry regarding the issue.

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