Opportunities and challenges with the German act for the protection of children with variations of sex development

Limor Meoded Danon, Katinka Schweizer, Barbara Thies

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In May 2021, the German parliament passed a long-debated law to protect children with variations of sex development/sex characteristics from medically unnecessary surgeries until they are old enough to decide for themselves. This law joins similar laws passed in other countries in recent years and recognizes the rights of people with variations of sex development to self-determination and bodily autonomy. In this article, we discuss the notion of bodily autonomy and examine details of the German legislation in the context of psychosocial care. We focus on the following questions: (1) How may the law help to preserve the genital integrity and future bodily autonomy of newborns with variations of sex development (VSD)? (2) What are the opportunities and challenges of this law? (3) What strategies are needed to implement the law in ways that include medical professionals’ knowledge and skills, parental cooperation, and protection for the genital integrity as well as the future genital autonomy of newborns with VSD? We make two main arguments. On the one hand, this law has created a space for a new discourse and discussion on VSD in German society and enables the “wait and see” approach. This approach challenges the traditional “psychosocial emergency” policy aimed at quickly “repairing” atypical genitalia. On the other hand, the law is characterized by significant challenges. For example, it does not address the meaning of bodily autonomy in the context of newborns and their families with VSD, and it overlooks the important distinction between genital appearance, genital function, and gender identity. We offer various educational strategies that can be implemented with different target groups in Germany to meet these challenges and ensure the adequate implementation of this law.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Impotence Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

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