Following the introduction of a groundbreaking medical protocol that will stop automatic gender assignment surgery on infants born in Albania, a European intersex organisation levied strong criticism at the law,
In a press release, the Organisation Intersex International Europe said that Albania “misses the chance to clearly address intersex children’s health from a human rights perspective.”
They said the protocol, the very first bit of legislation addressing the human right of intersex individuals in the country, “fails in fully embracing the intersex human right standards” that have been set by a number of organisations including the Council of Europe over the last 10 years. Execute Director, Dan Christian Ghattas said it suffers from “many weaknesses” and showed a “bias”. He added it is “the opposite of a true, human rights approach.”
The organisation didn’t address important aspects of the protocol including the multi-disciplinary approach including psychological support, education of parents and society, and the involvement of child protection services. It also did not mention that flouting of the protocol can result in medical malpractice charges, as while the protocol is not a law, it is binding under the criminal code.
This could be due to the fact that the protocol is not yet available in English and would have likely had to be translated via Google or similar.
The Tirana Legal Aid Society who took on the creation of the protocol, with support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, after managing cases where intersex children were having procedures forced upon them, responded via a statement on social media.
They clarified a number of points relating to the protocol and noted that they had been “strongly advocating for the advancement of human rights protection of intersex people in Albania since 2016.”
TLAS noted that medical protocols are not common in Albania, and this shows the importance and care that this issue- which was almost unknown of before- is taking, and will have in the future. They also explained that the protocol provides clear instructions that unnecessary and cosmetic surgeries must not be performed and that intersex cases should have a multidisciplinary approach including education and counselling for the individual and their family.
The protocol also lays out education for medical personnel regarding their human rights, how to communicate with intersex individuals and their families, and the legal consequences of their actions.
TLAS said that the protocol is a very important step in Albanian society, adding that reaching international standards is a process and takes time. They said they are “fully dedicated to advance protection and reformation of the legal framework in other areas such as discrimination, legal gender recognition, and flexible procedures to change gender markers.
The organisation has already won one case allowing an intersex individual to change the sex on their identity documents and is working on another at the moment.
LGBTI issues remain taboo in Albania. Same-sex marriage is not allowed, nor are same-sex partnerships. LGBTI individuals report significant discrimination at work, in their families, and in society as a whole. This medical protocol is considered as one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in Albania’s post-communist history and puts Albania ahead of other countries in the region in terms of human rights recognition of intersex individuals.
OII did not respond to questions as to whether they had offered, or would offer assistance to TLAS with regards to further developing the protocol.