In Italy there has been no mention of it at all, but last March 25, Chancellor Merkel’s Germany took another important step forward on the path of protecting human rights: the German Bundestag in fact adopted a federal government draft law ” for the protection of children with variant sex development “(19/27929).
Germany thus becomes the third Member State of the European Union, after Malta (in 2015) and Portugal (in 2018), to prohibit by law cosmetic surgery on intersex children, i.e. those children who, at the chromosomal sex level, gonadal or anatomical, they cannot be identified as exclusively male or female. The United Nations estimates that this is 0.05% –1.7% of the population, the same percentage of people born with red hair.
The only other European country that has addressed the issue is Albania (in 2020), but it did so only through the adoption of a protocol by the Ministry of Health, not a law therefore, according to which surgical interventions they can only take place if deemed necessary for health reasons.
The day before the approval of the German law, the European Commission presented a Strategy on the Rights of the Child which stresses the strong need to put an end to harmful practices such as intersex genital mutilation. According to the EU Commission, “62% of intersex people who have undergone surgery said that neither they nor their parents gave fully informed consent before medical treatment or surgery to change their sexual characteristics.”
That such a terrible violation of human rights is still practiced with impunity in Europe in 2021 is unacceptable. That is why it should be made known that the Member States which are finally trying to remedy this are increasing.
Italy should be the next country to take this step. For years, the Council of Europe and the European Union have been asking him for it with various documents and resolutions.
In 2016 and 2019 Italy was reprimanded by the UN (respectively by the Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Committee for the Rights of the Child) for practicing intersex genital mutilation.
On November 4, 2019, the 34th session of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held, which examined the state of human rights in Italy.
Among the 17 recommendations on the human rights of LGBTI people, there is for the first time also the one, made by Malta and the Netherlands, on the prohibition of cosmetic surgery on intersex children. Italy accepted it, along with another 16 of the 17 recommendations on the human rights of LGBTI people.
None of the laws approved so far are perfect. In 2019, the Committee on the Rights of the Child asked Malta to implement a “holistic framework” to ensure “data collection”, “monitoring” and “enforcement” of the law, as well as to ensure equal access to justice to “children subjected to harmful practices”.
In Germany, the Bundestag itself recognizes the character of work in progress of the law just approved by including a provision that requires an evaluation in 5 years. A decision appreciated by OII-Europe, the umbrella association of European intersex associations, which, while appreciating Germany’s important step forward, does not fail to underline some shortcomings such as, for example, the fact that the law does not protect all children Intersex alike.
Italy therefore not only has a duty to protect the human rights of its intersex citizens and to respect the commitments made at the United Nations, but also has the great opportunity to learn from the experiences of other EU Member States – even with the ‘help from the European Commission which has pledged to “support the exchange of good practices to end non-vital surgeries and medical interventions on intersex infants and adolescents” – and make a law even better than what exists today. What are we waiting for?