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 Full text 
Tuesday, 12 February 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

The rights of intersex people (debate)

  Claude Moraes, author. – Madam President, we are now moving to the question of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and it’s important that this item has been placed on the agenda today. I know that many people today in the Chamber care about this issue, and I particularly thank Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup for ensuring that this has been brought to the agenda.

In particular, I want to raise one aspect of the fight against discrimination against LGBTI people, and that is to highlight the fact that this is the first time a specific aspect of this issue is being debated in this Parliament – having been debated in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and, indeed, in the UN. This will be the first time that the daily discrimination faced by intersex people – the ‘I’ in LGBTI – has been discussed here in the European Parliament. And that is significant and important.

So, to focus on the oral question and resolution put forward by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, which touches upon this issue not often discussed but extremely important. Why important? If we are going to measure our values in the European Union by the way particular communities are treated and their vulnerability, then clearly the position faced by intersex people, not only in the European Union but also worldwide, is of significance. And it’s worth mentioning that human rights violations experienced by this community are significant, and we need to put them on the agenda today.

Intersex people face violation of their bodily integrity. Very often intersex is still considered as a disease, as something wrong, to be fixed, and ‘normalising’ surgery is often applied. Medical treatments are carried out on intersex newborns in at least 21 EU Member States. Secondly, throughout their lives, intersex people are victims of stigma, verbal discrimination including in the workplace, harassment, and lack of adequate medical care, legal recognition and access to justice, and of the invisibility of their bodies in our society. However, there is still no legal protection against discrimination based on such sex characteristics: no legal recognition of intersex people.

So today, we call on the Council and the Commission to ensure a de-pathologisation of intersex people and to prohibit unnecessary sex-normalising treatment and surgery. We know that in some Member States there has been progress, but in too many Member States there is insufficient progress.

We ask for gender and sex characteristics to be recognised as a ground of discrimination. We ask for provision of adequate, impartial psychosocial counselling; for the mainstreaming of flexible birth registration; and for legal gender-recognition procedures to be facilitated.

The key questions we’re asking of the Commission are very important ones. Today, almost 10 years on – and while I know the Commissioner is strongly committed to this, as she said in the LIBE Committee – we still do not have our cross-cutting anti-discrimination directive. So the base, which I know the Commissioner and the Members here are committed to, has not been put in place. And really the question is: what can we do to advance this anti-discrimination directive in a wider way?

Secondly, specifically with the intersex community, what are we doing to ensure that sex characteristics as a ground of discrimination, hate crime and hate speech are recognised?

Today, in the EU, only Malta and Portugal have outlawed medically unnecessary treatments on intersex children, and only Malta, Portugal and Greece have explicitly recognised sex characteristics as a ground of discrimination, hate crime and hate speech. It is intolerable that people in Europe continue to be discriminated against because of who they love, the body they are born with, and their personal sense of their gender. It is important today that we have put this on the agenda. And, I repeat, if we are to have values across the EU that we can respect, then they must entail caring for the most vulnerable minorities in our society; facing up to such discrimination; and showing that we are not afraid to stand up against it.

For that reason, I am very proud that this oral question and resolution are being presented to you today.

Last updated: 28 June 2019Legal notice