article Courtesy of Heather Cassell
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe took a historic first step toward protecting intersex children with the adoption of Resolution 1952 (2013), Children's Right to Physical Integrity, October 3.
It is the first time the union has ever addressed the bodily integrity of intersex children.
It is also the first of its kind resolution to address intersex children from a human rights perspective, rather than a medical approach, to maintain the right to bodily integrity. It calls for the "end of cosmetic medical and surgical treatment," according to the joint news release by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association and the Organization Intersex International Europe.
The resolution was drafted in partnership by the ILGBTIA and OII-Europe.
ILGBTIA is a non-governmental organization working on behalf of LGBTI rights. OII-Europe is the European branch of the OII, an international organization working for the rights of intersex individuals.
The resolution not only protects intersex children from medically altering their bodies without consent, but also includes other cosmetic procedures, from circumcision to piercing to tattooing.
The resolution also calls upon council members to direct member states to "undertake further research to increase knowledge about the specific situation of intersex people," according to the release.
Garnering more specific details about intersex individuals' lives includes ensuring that no one is subjected to "unnecessary medical or surgical treatment that is cosmetic rather than vital for health during infancy or childhood" and to "guarantee bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination." It also calls for adequate counseling and support for families with intersex children.
Representatives from OII or OII-Europe were unable to respond to a request for comment by press time.
The signing of the resolution is a part of a new ongoing effort of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union to protect LGBT including intersex individuals' human rights.
In June, the same council published comprehensive and legally binding guidelines to EU institutions and member states outlining progressive ways to advance human rights for LGBT and intersex individuals. The guidelines cover contacts with third countries and with international and civil society organizations.
Debating circumcision rights
Not everyone is happy with the resolution. Leaders of Israeli and European Jewish organizations spoke out harshly against the resolution, which included brit mila, the traditional religious ritual where male children are circumcised.
"This is a sign of anti-Semitism, in my opinion," Benjamin Albalas, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told the Jerusalem Post.
Religious ceremonies that require any type of alteration of a child's body for non-medical reasons were included in the resolution, along with female genital mutilation.
Any suggestion to ban circumcision "sends out a terrible message to European Jews that our practices, and therefore our very presence on this continent, is treated with disdain," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, reported thePost .
A large majority of the 642 delegates voted to remove a reference to the "religious rights of parents and families" from the measure, reported the Post.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the European Jewish Association based in Brussels pointed out that scientific information used in the report wasn't complete, not including opinions from experts from the World Health Organization about the positive health aspects of circumcision, she said.
To listen to sections of the report and presentation, visit http://www.lgbt-ep.eu/intergroup-documents/summary-trans-and-intersex-people-challenges-for-eu-law/.
New LGBT general rapporteur appointed to EU
Robert Biedron was appointed as the new general rapporteur on the rights of LGBT people of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The appointment was made unanimously by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination on September 17 in Madrid, but news of Biedron's new post wasn't publicly announced until October 2.
Biedron, a 37-year-old gay politician, replaces Hakon Haugli, who was the first holder of this mandate, according to the assembly's website.
Biedron was elected to the Polish Parliament in 2011 and has served in the EU and on the committee. He is also the vice-chairperson of the Committee of Justice and Human Rights and was the first openly gay member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs at the Sejm.
Biedron's responsibilities in his new role include intervening, protecting, and promoting LGBT rights, particularly related to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, Biedron will report periodically to the committee on information collected and actions taken related to violations of LGBT rights, which remain a problem, he said in an interview on the committee's website.
Biedron believes that continuing to relay the message that LGBT rights are basic human rights is "crucial" throughout Europe, he said.
Other top issues on his mind are protecting transgender individuals and focusing more attention on the needs and rights of LBT women in the EU.
"Violations of the rights of LGBT people are indeed a major problem in Europe," said Biedron, pointing out that the EU has adopted several resolutions and recommendations on LGBT human rights. "I will follow up on their implementation. My roadmap will be the recent report by Mr. Hakon Haugli, former general rapporteur, on 'tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.' I will do my best to continue his excellent work."