National Dialogue on the Protection and Promotion of the Human Rights of Intersex People

Firstly, we would like to take this moment to honour Sally Gross, an anti-apartheid and intersex activist who founded Intersex South Africa. Sally, who worked tirelessly to ensure visibility and redress of the ongoing human rights violations of intersex people in South Africa, secured the first known mention, globally, of intersex in national law through the inclusion of “intersex” within the definition of “sex” in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, which governs the judicial interpretation of the Equality Clause. She subsequently helped to draft legislation on the Alteration of Sex Descriptors and Sex Status Act 49 of 2003, which allows intersex citizens to change their sex descriptors on their identification documents.

Almost four years after Sally’s passing, we continue to hear intersex South Africans recount experiences of violations in all spheres of life; within their families, within rural and traditional settings, within medical settings, in schools and in prisons. We honour them as well, for daring to be visible in the face of pervasive ignorance, violence, discrimination and stigma. We honour them for telling and retelling their stories, for refusing to be silenced, for being prepared to stand up for the next generation of intersex children. We remember the words of former President Nelson Mandela, when he said, “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”, and invite you to commit to working together to end intersex infanticide and genital mutilation.

We are inspired and encouraged by the victories that intersex activists everywhere have managed to secure despite seemingly insurmountable odds. As we release this report, we invite you to interrogate the current legislative protections we have, and the continuing human rights violations against intersex people, and to reflect on our collective responsibility today. How do we make manifest constitutionally guaranteed rights in the lives of the average intersex person? What gaps exist that we need to address legislatively? What are the issues that need a more nuanced approach? What is our own personal role?

The National Report reflects some of the conversations that took place on 11 December 2017. We release it in the hope that it will increase awareness of issues facing the intersex community, and stimulate civil society, parents, and other actors to urgently address violations with the urgency they deserve, working hand in hand with intersex activists to co-create solutions. We hope this moment also marks the beginning of a joint sustained effort with government to address the human rights violations against intersex people, and we pledge to continue this work until every intersex child and adult is free from violence and harm based on their sex characteristics.

Continue reading below or download the full “National Dialogue on the Protection and Promotion of the Human Rights of Intersex People” resource.

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