We are thrilled to report that the state of Tamil Nadu, India, passed a ban on nonconsensual surgeries on intersex infants and minors early this past week! As reported in the media, on Monday, April 22, the Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu government to ban sex reassignment surgeries on intersex infants and children. With a population of over 72 million as the sixth largest state, by population, in India, this is an extremely impactful human rights gain for the intersex population, saving enormous numbers of intersex babies and future adults from the humnan rights violation of forced infant sex reassignment surgeries.
“When a child is born it is usually endowed with male genitalia or female genitalia. But there are children who are born with a genitalia that belongs to neither category. They are known as intersex children. They must be given their time and space to find their true gender identity,” Justice GR Swaminathan said, adding that ‘consent of the parent cannot be considered as the consent of the child’.
The court also expressed its gratitude to intersex activist Gopi Shankar Madurai, who had written to the Health Ministry regarding the issue.
We send our deepest gratitiude to Justice GR Swaminathan and the Madras high Court for recognizing the human rights of intersex persons, and to Gopi Shankur for fighting for them and attaining bodily integrity and self determination for intersex children and future adults!
We first became aware of Gopi when ze reached out to our E.D. many years ago, and ze has become a powerfully effective activist since. Ze is the founder of Srishti Madurai student volunteer collective, and a recipient of The Commonwealth Youth Worker Award. Ze was awarded a Leadership Degree, “Leading Change,” exclusively for The Queen’s Young Leaders from the University of Cambridge on 2017. Gopi was one of the youngest, and the first openly intersex and genderqueer, candidates to run for office in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election, 2016. In December 2017, Gopi was elected to the Executive Board of Asia The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association which holds Ecosoc consultative status at the United Nations. Ze is also rooted in Indic traditions of spirituality.
Speaking to The News Minute (TNM), Gopi said, “This is a historic verdict across Asia, that a judicial body has called for the fundamental recognition of infants who are not even part of the census. There are no safeguards for intersex infants in the country. So this verdict is very progressive.”nAt only 28 years old, we can’t wait to see all the amazing contributions Gopi has to offer the world, and thank zim profusely for making the world safer for countless intersex babies and future adults.
We also note that the ban is the result of intersectional work between trans and intersex communities, both of which Gopi is a member as an openly non-binary intersex person. It occurred when the issue of forced sex reassignment surgeries on intersex babies came to the Court’s attention while hearing a case regarding the marriage of a trans woman and a non-trans man. As reported by TNM:
Referring to the Supreme Court’s landmark National Legal Services
Authority v. Union of India judgment of 2004 (henceforth, NALSA
judgment), which said that no one can be forced to undergo sex
reassignment surgeries, Justice GR Swaminathan said, “Since it has
come to the notice of this Court that the mandate issued by the
Hon’ble Supreme Court is not being honoured, this Court has to
necessarily direct the Government of Tamilnadu to issue a Government
Order enshrining the aforesaid mandate of the Hon’ble Supreme Court
so as to effectively ban sex reassignment surgeries on intersex
infants and children.”
We have always advocated working in coalition with our fellow marginalized communities, and we celebrate this beautiful example of what can happen when we do.
Read the full judgement of the Madras High Court here: Judgment-on-Intersex-Infants-Madras-High-Court-April-22-2019