A comparative analysis of the content of parental responsibilities and rights during the "sex alteration decisionmaking process" of intersexed infants

Thompson, Sabrina (2021-03)

Thesis

Thesis (LLM)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis investigates whether the sex alteration decision-making process for intersex infants forms part of a parent’s responsibilities and rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 and the South African Children’s Act, 38 of 2005 both express and support the ideology of parental responsibilities instead of parental rights. Further, these documents provide that in all matters involving a child, parents have to act with their child’s best interests as their primary concern. These notions have contributed significantly to the protection and promotion of children’s rights in various ways. Yet, intersex infants have largely been excluded from this progression. It is a well-established principle in law that parents have a wide discretion to consent on behalf of their child to general medical intervention but there are instances where this capacity is and should be limited. It is argued in this thesis that the sex alteration decision-making process is one area in which a parent’s discretion should be limited. Intersex persons have historically been subjected to discrimination and “othering” because they do not conform to either the male or female binary. Consequently, this prejudice has resulted in intersex rights being marginalised. Some jurisdictions have attempted to implement legislation to regulate intersex rights. However, the decision- making process in respect of the sex alteration of infants remain largely unregulated. Malta is currently the only jurisdiction that legislatively prohibits sex alteration surgery on minors unless they are able to consent themselves. South Africa initially lacked any type of regulation on the sex alteration decision-making process but recent proposals have the potential to change this position significantly. The proposed amendments to the Children’s Act will remove the decision-making capacity of a parent regarding sex alteration surgery. However, it is submitted that this amendment in its current format is ineffective, as more substantive engagement is needed. There are certain decisions that a child needs to make themselves with the appropriate parental guidance. Finally, this thesis also offers suggestions as to possible strategies and measures that could be implemented within South Africa’s legal framework to address the issue of sex alteration surgery on intersex infants.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die vraag of die besluitnemingsproses gedurende die geslagsverandering van interseks babas deel uitmaak van ouerlike verantwoordelikhede en regte. Beide die Verenigde Nasies se Konvensie op die Regte van die Kind, 1989 en die Suid-Afrikaanse Kinderwet, 38 van 2005 verwoord en ondersteun die idee van ouerlike verantwoordelikhede eerder as ouerlike regte. Hierdie dokumente bepaal verder dat in alle aangeleenthede waar kinders betrokke is, ouers met die beste belang van hul kinders as hul primêre oorweging, moet optree. Bogenoemde idees het al op ‘n betekenisvolle wyse en op vele maniere bygedra tot die beskerming en bevordering van kinderregte. Nietemin word interseks babas grootliks uit hierdie vordering uitgesluit. Dit is ‘n goed gevestigde regsbeginsel dat ouers ʼn wye diskresie het om namens hul kinders tot algemene mediese ingryping toe te stem maar daar is gevalle waar hierdie bevoegdheid beperk word en beperk behoort te word. Dit word in hierdie tesis geargumenteer dat die besluitnemingsproses vir geslagsverandering as ʼn voorbeeld dien van waar ʼn ouer se diskresie behoort beperk te word. Vanuit ʼn geskiedkundige perspektief is interseks persone nog altyd aan diskriminasie en “andersheid” blootgestel omdat hulle nie aan die binêre begrippe van “manlik” en “vroulik” voldoen nie. Hierdie vooroordeel het daartoe gelei dat interseks regte gemarginaliseer is. Sommige jurisdiksies het wel al gepoog om wetgewing te implementeer om interseks regte te reguleer. Die besluitnemingsproses rondom geslagsverandering van interseks babas bly egter grootliks ongereguleerd. Malta is tans die enigste jurisdiksie wat geslagsverandering van kinders op wetgewende wyse verbied tensy die kinders self daartoe kan toestem. Oorspronklik het Suid-Afrika ook enige tipe regulering in die verband ontbreek maar onlangse voorstelle het die potensiaal om hierdie posisie aansienlik te verander. Die voorgestelde wysigings tot die Kinderwet sal die bevoegdheid van besluitneming tot geslagsverandering van ʼn ouer wegneem. Tog word dit aan die hand gedoen dat hierdie wysiging in die huidige formaat oneffektief is, aangesien verdere substantiewe betrokkenheid benodig word. Daar is sekere besluite wat ʼn kind self moet maak terwyl hulle gepaste ouerlike begeleiding ontvang. Die tesis bied ook voorstelle tot moontlike strategieë en meganismes wat in die Suid-Afrikaanse regskonteks geïmplementeer kan word om die kwessie rondom die besluitnemingsproses vir die geslagsverandering van interseks babas aan te spreek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/110571
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