Albania just made the historic move to ban unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex children


Albania has made a historic decision to stop unnecessary medical interventions on the genitals of intersex children.

The landmark move from the Albanian Ministry of Health will protect the estimated 1.7 per cent of people born with sex characteristics that differ from social expectations of ‘female’ or ‘male’.

Previously it was left to parents to decide whether children should undergo surgery to assign a particular sex, but now these interventions will only take place if needed for genuine health reasons.

The legislation is the first of its kind in Albania and was supported by the Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS), a group that worked with the Albanian intersex community.

“We were being referred to these cases and it was a surprise as it was the first time we were aware of this issue,” said Anisa Metalla, a lawyer for TLAS speaking to Exit News.

“We investigated, found more cases, and understood how the situation was being approached. We understood that this wasn’t just a civil registry issue, but rather it was indicative of a bigger problem. The fundamental rights of these people were being infringed by the inexistence of dedicated legislation that addressed their situation.”

Under the new law, in cases where the parents don’t act according to the doctor’s guidance, there will be a strict process where a multidisciplinary group is gathered to inform the parent.

It will also be mandatory to notify the Child Protection Unit, and if doctors refuse to follow the protocol they can risk losing their license or face criminal charges.

TLAS celebrated these new protections for intersex children, who previously underwent “unnecessary and irreversible medical interventions, faced unnecessary medicalisation, lacked access to information and inability to decision making participation in decisions affecting their bodily integrity”.

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Posted by Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS) on Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Most intersex variations are medically benign, but around the world so-called ‘corrective’ or ‘normalising’ surgeries are regularly performed to make children conform to gendered social norms.

The intersex community has long called for an end to the practise, and the United Nations has condemned these “genital mutilations” at least 40 times since 2011.

Albania is one of only a few countries to have issued an outright ban, including the island of Malta and the Indian state of Kerala.

In May of this year Albania also became the third European country to ban the traumatising practise of gay conversion therapy.