Amnesty International Calls on Iceland to Respect 'Diverse Bodies' Skip to content

Amnesty International Calls on Iceland to Respect ‘Diverse Bodies’

A new report issued by Amnesty International uses case studies in Iceland to show how a lack of supportive legislation leads to people “born with variations of sex characteristics – who sometimes describe themselves as ‘intersex’” facing social stigma, discrimination, and potentially harmful surgical procedures.

The report calls particular attention to the Bill on Sexual and Gender Autonomy that is set to come before parliament at the end of February. Although Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has emphasized that this bill is part of her government’s commitment to being on the vanguard of LGBTQIA issues, Amnesty International asserts that it “…lacks essential protections for children. In particular, it includes no provisions to end ‘normalising’ non-emergency, invasive and irreversible surgeries on children born with variations of sex characteristics.”

Amnesty International estimates that there are roughly 6,000 people in Iceland “…with sex characteristics – genitals, gonads, hormones, chromosomes or reproductive organs – which vary from the established norms for ‘male’ and ‘female’”. The organization says that during its study of the country, it “found evidence that in Iceland, people who are born with variations of sex characteristics struggle to access healthcare that is appropriate and centres on their human rights, which in some cases can cause lasting harm.”

The organization also spoke to Kitty Anderson, the founder of Intersex Iceland, who echoed their observations, saying “[g]ood healthcare is so hard to get because we are seen as ‘disorders’ that need to be fixed…A lot of the health issues that arise are because of the treatment that we got as children. We wouldn’t have all these cases of osteopenia or osteoporosis if we hadn’t gone through gonadectomies as children and incompetent hormone therapy as teenagers.”

In closing, Amnesty International called on the Icelandic government to “…create a specialised, multidisciplinary team for the medical treatment of children and of adults with variations of sex characteristics” and to “…develop and implement a rights-based healthcare protocol for individuals with variations of sex characteristics to guarantee their bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination.”

Read Amnesty International’s full statement on this issue, “Iceland: Diverse bodies are not mistakes to be corrected,” in English, here.

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