Greece finally bans ‘abusive’ and unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex children

A doctor places a stethoscope on a baby

Greece has finally banned “abusive” genital surgeries on intersex children in a “historic moment” for intersex rights.

The Hellenic Parliament approved Tuesday (19 July) the Medically Assisted Reproduction Reforms Act which will stop doctors from carrying out “sex-normalising” surgeries.

For decades surgeons have attempted to “fix” intersex babies with avoidable and unnecessary treatments before they are old enough to meaningfully consent. These operations can often result in a lifetime of pain and trauma.

But not anymore in Greece. Now doctors who perform surgery on intersex people under 15 will face fines and even prison, Reuters reported.

Medical intervention for young people will only be allowed if urgently needed for health reasons Case-by-case exceptions will be made in instances where a young person or their parents or guardians have sought a court order.

Those older than 15 who can consent will be allowed to seek out surgeries or hormonal therapies that change the body.

A rainbow flag is projected on the facade of the Greek parliament

Greece’s parliament has passed a law banning intersex genital mutilation. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

OLKE, Greece’s oldest LGBTQ+ group, told PinkNews that the ban has been sought for years by campaigners.

“This new bill is really a historic moment for intersex children and the LGBTQI+ movement in Greece and comes in accordance with the latest developments in the European Union,” a spokesperson said.

“It puts a ban on doctors who will try to apply abusive medical treatments to intersex children and babies.”

Greece is indeed in good company now, becoming the fifth country in the world to roll out an intersex surgery ban.

EU nations such as Germany, Portugal and Malta have banned the operations, as has Iceland.

OLKE added: “We have experienced the mental and health problems most of these children had to face in their adolescent and adult life and it was one of the requests to the Ministry of Health for many years.”

Among the groups that have called for the ban is Intersex Greece. The campaign group said that many intersex people never want or need surgery to change their sex characteristics.

These surgeries, otherwise known as intersex genital mutilations, can leave intersex people with scarring, loss of sexual feeling and even sterile, it added.

The idea of a “normal” or “correct” body – a body that falls neatly within the gender binary – often drives doctors to perform the nonconsensual procedure on babies and infants.

This is despite the raft of research that shows that biological differences are perfectly natural in humans – and it’s more common than people think. Some estimates say almost two per cent of the world’s population is intersex.

Intersex Greece said: “This bill is an excellent start for ensuring the well-being and free development of intersex children because it recognises their right to bodily integrity and finally, it emphatically affirms that Intersex rights are human rights.

“The fight clearly continues, but let today be a day of celebration, relief and hope for all intersex persons in Greece, who can finally feel that they are valid, that they are heard and that they are respected just as they are born by the Greek State, and that nobody can define their body without their own will and consent.”