Which Children Have Rights? The Child’s Right to Bodily Integrity and Protection Gaps for Children with Intersex Traits under International and National Laws


  • Debra L DeLaet
  • Brian D Earp
  • Elizabeth Mills




This article examines protection gaps for children with intersex traits under international and national laws governing non-voluntary medicalized interventions into sexual anatomy. Various United Nations (UN) bodies, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, human rights treaty-monitoring bodies and the Human Rights Council, have called for full acknowledgment and substantive protection of the rights of children with intersex variations—as with all children—to bodily integrity and (future) bodily autonomy in relation to their own sexed embodiment. However, these global norms generally have not been codified under international law, and most countries have not passed adequate, or any, legislation to secure these rights. We review relevant global norms, international human rights treaties and legislative developments in a range of countries to illustrate potential pathways for closing legal gaps in the protection of all children’s rights to bodily integrity and (future) bodily and sexual autonomy.

Keywords: bodily integrity; children’s rights; gender binary; non-voluntary medical interventions; human rights; intersex.


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Special Section: Children's Rights: Contemporary Issues in Law and Society (Part 2)