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Netherlands on intersex rights taken to task by UN committee

The UN Committee Against Torture today firmly rebuked the Netherlands over allowing unnecessary and irreversible surgery and other medical treatments performed on young intersex children.

COC, TNN and NNID welcome the UN Committee's opinion on the recommendations on intersex children and on the recommendations to the Netherlands to more robustly address violence against LHTIs. The Committee's criticism and recommendations are in line with the report on the situation of LGBT people in our country that the three organizations sent to the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 and which was also the subject of consultations with the UN Committee last year.

The UN Committee is concerned about the treatments that are performed on intersex children at a very young age. The Committee notes that these treatments result in prolonged physical and mental suffering, when it is possible to wait until children are old enough to make their own decisions about possible treatment without health consequences.


In its recommendations, the UN Committee suggests a number of changes the Dutch government should initiate for intersex persons, including the:

  • take measures to safeguard the physical integrity and autonomy of intersex persons. In addition, non-emergency medical treatments intended to establish the child's gender should be prohibited without the informed consent of the child himself or herself;
  • Guarantee impartial counseling and psychological and social support for intersex children and their parents, to provide information on the consequences of possible treatments and the possibilities of delaying medical interventions;
  • ensuring the giving of completely free and informed consent by intersex persons about surgical and other treatments. In addition, it should be ensured that non-urgent, irreversible medical interventions on intersex children are delayed until the child is sufficiently mature to make a fully free and informed decision on this for himself or herself;
  • Conducting investigations into cases of surgical treatments and other medical procedures performed without the full and informed consent of the intersex person themselves. Perpetrators should be prosecuted, and if found responsible, punished. In addition, the government must provide victims with redress, including adequate compensation.


NNID, the Dutch sex diversity organization, underlines the UN Committee's report and sees this ruling as a milestone for intersex persons in the Netherlands. It is imperative that the Dutch government now act quickly on these recommendations.

Miriam van der Have, director of NNID, says that it has long been clear that the Netherlands has not done enough to protect the rights of intersex people: "After almost seventy years of fighting against unnecessary surgeries and other unnecessary treatments, it is high time that the Dutch government now starts developing legislation." Internationally, these treatments are already being compared to Female Genital Mutilation and referred to as Intersex Genital Mutilation.

Hate Crimes

The UN Committee's report also includes recommendations to our government on combating violence against LGBT people. The committee is concerned about reports showing that many LGBT people are victims of hate crimes because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and that suspected perpetrators in our country are not always brought to justice. The committee believes that the government should take the necessary steps to better protect LGBT people from threats and violence (including hate crimes) and ensure that anti-LHBTI violence is promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.

The unredacted version of the UN Committee Against Torture's Concluding Observations can be found HERE.

[Source: COC NL, NNID - Image: logo UN Committee Against Torture]

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