Intersex Human Rights Australia

Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA) is a voluntary organisation for intersex people that promotes the human rights and bodily autonomy of intersex people in Australia, and provides education and information services.[1][2] Established in 2009 and incorporated as a charitable company in 2010,[3] it was formerly known as Organisation Intersex International Australia, or OII Australia.[4] It is recognised as a Public Benevolent Institution.[3]

Intersex Human Rights Australia
PurposeIntersex human rights, education and peer support
Region served
Co-executive directors
Tony Briffa and Morgan Carpenter


The institution was founded in 2009 and established as a company in 2010.[3] Founding president Gina Wilson stepped down on 1 September 2013.[2][5]

The current co-executive directors of IHRA are Morgan Carpenter, previously president,[6][7] and Tony Briffa, known as the first publicly intersex mayor and previously vice-president.[8][9][10][11] Tony Briffa is also the Vice-President of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group Australia.


Physical integrity and bodily autonomy

Intersex Human Rights Australia campaigns in favour of personal autonomy in medical interventions affecting intersex people, including an end to cosmetic or "normalising" surgeries on intersex infants.[12][13][14][15][16][17] In late 2012, the Senate's Community Affairs References Committee established an inquiry into the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities. In February 2013, intersex was added as an additional term of reference.[18] The Committee published a joint, cross-party report on 25 October 2013, making 15 recommendations. The conclusions of the inquiry supported much of the case and recommendations made by IHRA:[19][6]

3.109 ... As OII commented, normalisation surgery is more than physical reconstruction. The surgery is intended to deconstruct an intersex physiology and, in turn, construct an identity that conforms with stereotypical male and female gender categories...

3.129 ... The proposals put forward by Organisation Intersex International have merit, and are consistent with the committee's conclusions. The committee believes that a protocol covering 'normalising' surgery should be developed, and then adhered to in all cases of intersex children. Such a guideline should be consistent with Organisational Intersex International's recommendations

In May 2019, IHRA published a multilingual joint statement signed by more than 50 intersex-led organizations condemning the introduction of "disorders of sex development" language into the International Classification of Diseases, stating that this causes "harm" and facilitates human rights violations, calling on the World Health Organization to publish clear policy to ensure that intersex medical interventions are "fully compatible with human rights norms".[20][21][22][23][24]

The institution also engages directly with clinicians and biologists. While opposing use of terminology that it describes as pathologising, such as "Disorders of Sex Development",[25] Carpenter is nevertheless named as a reviewer for a "DSD Genetics" website funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council Australia.[26]

In a submission to the UN Committee Against Torture in 2016, the organisation submitted that Australian governments recognise the dignity and rights of LGBTI people, but at the same time, "harmful practices" on intersex children continue.[27]

In March 2017, representatives of IHRA participated in an Australian and Aotearoa/New Zealand consensus "Darlington Statement" by intersex community organisations and others.[28] The statement calls for legal reform, including the criminalization of deferrable intersex medical interventions on children, an end to legal classification of sex, and improved access to peer support.[28][29][30][31][32]

Access to healthcare

In July 2013, the Commonwealth announced that it was removing sex or gender terms from item codes for Medicare procedures,[33] following input from IHRA.[34] IHRA noted that the changes do not ensure full access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).[35]

Protection from discrimination

In late 2012, the Australian Governments' proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill included intersex as a "gender identity". This was criticised by IHRA on the basis that intersex people needed protection, but biological differences should not come within the definition.[36] Writing in the Equal Rights Trust journal Equal Rights Review, Gina Wilson wrote, "Legislators initially did not have a clear understanding of what intersex was, but having given evidence to Senate Committees and spoken with legislators individually we are hopeful that intersex will be a protected attribute under the Bill."[1][37][38][39]

On 25 June 2013, the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act passed with cross-party support,[40] and became law on 1 August 2013. This was the first time "intersex status" had been a protected attribute under Australian discrimination legislation.[41][42]

Identification documents

The organisation has stated that "while sex or gender markers are still required", it supports binary, non-binary and multiple gender classifications for adults, but only binary classifications for infants and children, fearing stigmatisation and the potential impact on sex assignment processes for infants.[43][44][45][46][47] The organisation cautiously acknowledged an Australian Capital Territory Bill to modify the Territory's birth registrations process to create a third sex category for infants and children, stating, "neither of the two national intersex organisations had been engaged in talks before the bill was presented in the Assembly."[48][49] In 2017, the organisation reported that no children had been assigned to such a category, viewing this as a vindication of the argument that such classifications exacerbate parental fears.[50]

In March 2017, an Australian and Aotearoa/New Zealand community statement called for an end to legal classification of sex, stating that legal third classifications, like binary classifications, were based on structural violence and failed to respect diversity and a "right to self-determination".[28][29]


Citing cases where marriages have been annulled,[51][52] and where marriage prospects are stated as a rationale for early medical interventions,[53] IHRA campaigned for marriage rights regardless of sex characteristics.[28] The institution expressed concern at the marriage implications of constructions of intersex as a third sex.[53] In 2017 the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017[54] specifically refers to '2 people' rather than 'same-sex' with respect to the definition of marriage.[55]

International work

Intersex Human Rights Australia is represented at numerous international events, including the "first United Nations Human Rights Council side event on intersex issues" in March 2014, alongside Mauro Cabral and representatives of Intersex UK and Zwischengeschlecht.[56]

Intersex Flag

The Intersex flag was created in July 2013 by Morgan Carpenter of Intersex Human Rights Australia (then known as Organisation Intersex International Australia) to be a flag "that is not derivative, but is yet firmly grounded in meaning". The circle is described as "unbroken and unornamented, symbolising wholeness and completeness, and our potentialities. We are still fighting for bodily autonomy and genital integrity, and this symbolises the right to be who and how we want to be."[57]

Awards and recognition

The organisation was nominated for a 2013 Community Organisation "Honour" Award[58][59] for its work on anti-discrimination legislation. Founding former president Gina Wilson was a finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission Community Individual Award in 2013, following her retirement, for her work on discrimination protections.[60][61][62]


Intersex Human Rights Australia is a national affiliate of Organisation Intersex International, a member of the National LGBTI Health Alliance and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

See also


  1. The Equal Rights Review, Volume Ten (2013), Equal Rights Trust, 27 March 2013
  2. Changes At OII As Trailblazer Gina Wilson Retires , Star Observer, 13 September 2013
  3. About OII Australia, Organisation Intersex International Australia, 24 July 2013
  4. Carpenter, Morgan (4 March 2018). "We are now "Intersex Human Rights Australia"". Intersex Human Rights Australia. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  5. Board changes at OII Australia: Gina Wilson steps down Archived 10 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Gay News Network, 2 September 2013
  6. It's time to defend intersex rights, Morgan Carpenter at Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Drum, 15 November 2013
  7. The OII Australia Board, Organisation Intersex International Australia, 12 October 2013.
  8. Briffa to march in mayoral robes, Star Observer, 8 December 2011
  9. "Intersex Mayor Elected in Australia",, 9 December 2011
  10. "World's first intersex mayor, Cr Tony Briffa does not want to be called he or she", Herald Sun, 15 April 2013
  11. "Melbourne elects Australia's first intersex Mayor",, 9 December 2011
  12. OII Australia (29 October 2013). "Statement on the Senate report 'Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia'".
  13. Bock, Andrew (20 June 2013). "Call to end intersex genital operations". The Age.
  14. LGBTI Health Update, Vol. 3, No. 4, May 2013, National LGBTI Health Alliance, May 2013
  15. Intersex health – Morgan Carpenter’s presentation to Health in Difference conference, OII Australia, 22 April 2013
  16. It’s time to stop cosmetic genital surgery on intersex infants, OII Australia, 18 July 2013
  17. Senate Inquiry reveals forced surgery on intersex children Archived 10 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Gay News Network, 25 September 2013
  18. Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia, Chapter 1, Senate Community Affairs References Committee, 25 October 2013
  19. Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia, Chapter 3, Senate Community Affairs References Committee, 25 October 2013
  20. Intersex Human Rights Australia (23 May 2019), Joint statement on the International Classification of Diseases 11
  21. Crittenton, Anya (24 May 2019). "World Health Organization condemned for classifying intersex as 'disorder'". Gay Star News. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  22. Leighton-Dore, Samuel (28 May 2019). "World Health Organisation drops transgender from list of mental health disorders". SBS. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  23. Barr, Sabrina (28 May 2019). "Transgender no longer classified as 'mental disorder' by WHO". The Independent. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  24. Wills, Ella (29 May 2019). "Campaigners hail changes to WHO classification of trans health issues". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  25. Concluding submission to the Senate Inquiry on involuntary or coerced sterilisation, OII Australia, 12 September 2013.
  26. DSD Genetics, Disorders of Sex Development Research Website, 9 October 2013
  27. "Submission: list of issues for Australia's Convention Against Torture review". Organisation Intersex International Australia. 28 June 2016.
  28. Androgen Insensitivity Support Syndrome Support Group Australia; Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand; Organisation Intersex International Australia; Black, Eve; Bond, Kylie; Briffa, Tony; Carpenter, Morgan; Cody, Candice; David, Alex; Driver, Betsy; Hannaford, Carolyn; Harlow, Eileen; Hart, Bonnie; Hart, Phoebe; Leckey, Delia; Lum, Steph; Mitchell, Mani Bruce; Nyhuis, Elise; O'Callaghan, Bronwyn; Perrin, Sandra; Smith, Cody; Williams, Trace; Yang, Imogen; Yovanovic, Georgie (March 2017), Darlington Statement, archived from the original on 21 March 2017, retrieved 21 March 2017
  29. Copland, Simon (20 March 2017). "Intersex people have called for action. It's time to listen". Special Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  30. Jones, Jess (10 March 2017). "Intersex activists in Australia and New Zealand publish statement of priorities". Star Observer. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  31. Power, Shannon (13 March 2017). "Intersex advocates pull no punches in historic statement". Gay Star News. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  32. Sainty, Lane (13 March 2017). "These Groups Want Unnecessary Surgery On Intersex Infants To Be Made A Crime". BuzzFeed Australia. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  33. Gender discrimination to be removed from Medicare, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2013
  34. All Gender Discrimination to be Removed from Medicare, The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP – Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, 24 July 2013
  35. Medicare is now sex and gender neutral, OII Australia, 24 July 2013
  36. Proposed law leaves intersex 'vulnerable', Judith Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 January 2013.
  37. The Equal Rights Review, Equal Rights Trust
  38. Senate Committee Report on the Exposure Draft of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, Chapter 3, Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, 21 February 2013
  39. Senate Committee Report on the on the Exposure Draft of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, Chapter 7, Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, 21 February 2013
  40. On the historic passing of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013, OII Australia, 25 June 2013
  41. LGBTI groups welcome the passage of "historic" national discrimination laws, OII Australia, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Transgender Victoria, A Gender Agenda, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, 26 June 2013
  42. Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013, No. 98, 2013. C2013A00098, ComLaw, 2013
  43. Third sex option on birth certificates , Deutsche Welle, 1 November 2013
  44. Third Gender: A Step Toward Ending Intersex Discrimination , Der Spiegel, 22 August 2013.
  45. Revised policy on identification documents, OII Australia, 12 November 2013
  46. Australia embraces new gender guidelines, Madeleine Coorey, Agence France-Presse, 14 June 2013
  47. ‘X’ gender: Germans no longer have to classify their kids as male or female, RT, 3 November 2013.
  48. ACT government bill will introduce wider gender identification, Lisa Cox, The Canberra Times, 29 November 2013
  49. ACT Govt proposes third option for birth certificates, Star Observer, 19 November 2013
  50. Carpenter, Morgan; Organisation Intersex International Australia (28 August 2017). Shadow Report submission to the Human Rights Committee on the situation of intersex people in Australia.
  51. Richardson, Ian D. (May 2012). God's Triangle. Preddon Lee Limited. ISBN 9780957140103.
  52. In the marriage of C and D (falsely called C), FLC 90-636 (1979).
  53. Carpenter, Morgan; Organisation Intersex International Australia (January 2017), Submission on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill
  54. Senator Smith (15 November 2017). "Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017". The Senate: Parliament House Canberra. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  55. Sainty, Lane (29 August 2017). "WTF Is Up With "Transgender Marriage" And The Same-Sex Marriage Debate?". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  56. "Intersex side event at the UN Human Rights Council". Organisation Intersex International Australia. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  57. An intersex flag, Intersex Human Rights Australia, 5 July 2013
  58. "Honour Awards 2013 – Nominations".
  59. The 2013 Honour Awards finalists, Gay News Network, 2 September 2013
  60. Commission announces shortlist for community Human Rights awards. Australian Human Rights Commission, 15 November 2013.
  61. Intersex pioneer & NSW gay lobby get nods for Human Rights Awards, Star Observer, 18 November 2013
  62. Community Individual Award – Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Award (sponsored by iHR Australia), Australian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Awards 2013
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