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“Genital Autonomy” is a universal Human Right. The term describes the inalienable right of all of us – adults and children – to control what is done with our most private parts, our genitals. This includes the right to say “NO!” to surgery or cutting that is not needed to cure a disease or correct an anatomical defect.

Our right to protection from non-medical cutting of our bodies is found not only in our common laws of assault, but in a number of Human Rights texts. These include rights to security of the person, protection from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. For example Article 24.3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says: “States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.”

A key component of every Human Rights text in the world is the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex: no child can be treated less favourably than another just because they are a girl, a boy or intersex. The fact that girls, boys and intersex people have different looking genitals is not reason for them to have different rights over them, or different rights as people.

In October 2012 an international gathering of scholars, doctors, lawyers and others adopted the Helsinki Declaration of the Right to Genital Autonomy as a children’s rights text. The Australasian Institute for Genital Autonomy (AIGA) has also adopted the Declaration as part of its Objects and Principles.