LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey
This report has been developed as part of the project “Being LGBTI in Eastern Europe: Reducing Inequalities & Exclusion, and Combating Homophobia & Transphobia Experienced by LGBTI people in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia” (BLEE). The project considered LGBTI issues in each of the countries from a human rights and development perspective, contextualizing these against the backdrop of civil society capacity development, community mobilization and government competence. This includes but is not limited to the right to health and well-being within the context of development. The intention of the national BLEE reports, developed during the project implementation, was to voice lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities’ concerns; identify gaps in legislation and practice; and provide recommendations to relevant stakeholders.
Among many other learnings in the Western Balkans region, it appeared that there is very little information about the situation surrounding intersex people and issues they face in the selected project countries. That was the main reason why UNDP invested additional effort to investigate this situation around intersex issues in the four Western Balkans BLEE project implementation countries.
Across the Western Balkans region, people remain largely unaware of the painful personal stories of intersex people and the human rights violations they face. The social expectations for either a girl or a boy at birth, or a woman or a man in society, are the source of the problems intersex people face. Society does not usually recognize a person without reference to their sex. Meanwhile, intersex-chromosomal, anatomical or gonadal characteristics do not belong exclusively to either sex. This is why intersex persons encounter huge barriers to the enjoyment of their universal human rights. Stereotypes and norms grounded on the binary female–male classification have led to unnecessary medical and surgical interventions on intersex infants and a climate of incomprehension in society. Parents of intersex babies are often ill-informed and baffled. Medical professionals may be quick to propose ‘corrective’ surgeries and treatments aimed at ‘normalizing’ the sex of the child. Such surgeries, which are cosmetic rather than medically necessary, are often performed on intersex babies and toddlers. This can result in irreversible sex assignment and sterilization – performed without the full informed consent of the parents and, even more importantly, without the consent of intersex persons themselves. ‘Corrective’ operations and treatments are usually traumatizing and humiliating. They can take a long time and post-operative complications are common. There are long-term effects on intersex individuals’ mental health and well-being. The sex assigned to children at an early age may not correspond with their identity and feelings later in their lives. Western Balkan countries have been slow in recognizing and upholding the human rights of intersex people and the gender diversity they represent. The fundamental rights of intersex people are not respected as they remain largely unrecognized in societies.