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Tamil Nadu Becomes First State to Ban Sex Reassignment Surgeries for Intersex Infants, Children

The government, however, said that reassignment surgeries will be allowed in cases of life-threatening situations, which will be decided after the recommendations of a committee.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:August 29, 2019, 10:49 PM IST
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Tamil Nadu Becomes First State to Ban Sex Reassignment Surgeries for Intersex Infants, Children
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Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government has banned sex reassignment surgeries for intersex infants and children in a move which is being seen as progressive. The development comes after the Madras High Court’s direction to the Department of Health and Family Welfare in April to issue an order "enshrining the mandate of the Supreme Court".

The order, however, mentioned that the reassignment surgeries will be allowed in cases of life-threatening situations, which will be decided after the recommendations of a committee comprising a paediatric surgeon or a urologist, an endocrinologist, a social worker, and a government representative not below the rank of an under-secretary. The committee will be constituted by the Director of Medical Education.

In its justification for the ban on reassignment surgeries, the government said, “The term ‘intersex’ refers to people born with physical and biological sex characteristics that are more diverse than stereotypical definitions of male or female bodies.”

It added that with around 40 different recognised types of intersex variations, there is a huge diversity among intersex people that needs to be acknowledged. “Intersex variation can be picked up at any time during life. It is not something that is obvious from birth,” the order said.

A couple had moved the court in April after the registration authorities failed to recognise their marriage and cited that a transwoman cannot be a bride according to the Hindu Marriages Act. While hearing this case, the court directed the state government to ban sex reassignment surgeries on intersex infants.

The government also quoted a World Health Organisation report that terms such “sex normalising procedures” as medically unnecessary and often irreversible.

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