This week the Special Rapporteur on Torture of the UN released his report on torture in health care. A topic important for trans and intersex people. Thanks to two interventions of human rights advocates involuntary surgery now equals torture

UN report

At the Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez published his report  (/HRC22/53/) on “certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

A Special Rapporteur in the UN is a Special Procedure called into life to be able to investigate specific themes better than through the general work of the UN. The system being already overloaded and no t always working as good as it should, a Special Rapporteur mostly investigates a theme, sometimes also a country with regards to the upholding of human rights.

The report aims to show that medical practices that go hidden under health care policies not worth their name. It shows where the state has to change their policies and the medical profession their practice to avoid putting people in positions dangerous to their health or well being.

In the process to this report trans* activist Micah Grzywnowicz wrote a submission to the Rapporteur in which zie eloquently states that the need of surgical genital correction of trans people comes forth from a binary gender perspective that aims at keeping intact the fiction of heterosexuality. It upholds the fiction that trans people are by definition heterosexual after transitioning. Which is nonsense. Not recognizing that trans people need to be protected from forced surgery implies they do not deserve the same protection against sterilization as do women with disabilities and Roma women. Grzywnowicz chooses this comparison since the UN strongly condemned these as human rights violations.

Another submission comes from US based Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) that almost last moment sent in a 16 page paper with legal, medical and human rights literature. The Office of the SRT contacted them for a submission. Which is already great. It means the idea that something is wrong with Infant Genital Cutting is clear to the Rapporteur and we have an extra advocacy tool to work with governments and the medical profession.


The report states the recommendation as follows:

88. The Special Rapporteur calls upon all States to repeal any law allowing intrusive and irreversible treatments, including forced genital-normalizing surgery, involuntary sterilization, unethical experimentation, medical display, “reparative therapies” or “conversion therapies”, when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned. He also calls upon them to outlaw forced or coerced sterilization in all circumstances and provide special protection to individuals belonging to marginalized groups.


It looks we are making headway. Trans and intersex united against involuntary medical interventions.  They equal torture!

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