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The Senate Community Affairs References Committee has today tabled the report of its inquiry into involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia. The Committee has made wide-ranging findings, including recommendations to strengthen the law and better educate medical practitioners, courts, people with a disability and their families about their rights and responsibilities 

“This has been a very important Inquiry for the members of the Committee, we undertook extensive consultation and deliberation in order to produce a report and a set of recommendations that will offer the support and security that people with disabilities, families, carers and medical practitioners expect,” Committee Chair Senator Rachel Siewert said today. 

“This is a very personal and emotional issue, we are particularly grateful to those people across the community who made submissions, attended hearings and took part in this discussion, including many women with disability who were prepared to talk to the committee about their personal experiences. 

“The Committee has made 28 recommendations that attempt to address the broad range of issues and concerns that we have examined over the last nine months. “This is a deeply personal matter for many individuals and their families, but ultimately, the human rights implications of undertaking an operation against an individual’s free will are clear.

When a person with a disability has the capacity to consent, either on their own or with appropriate support, sterilisation should be banned unless they give that consent. This includes those people with a disability who may develop the capacity to consent in the future.  As the inquiry report states; “State and Territory legislation needs to be improved to explicitly state that it is presumed that persons with disabilities have the capacity to make their own decisions unless objectively assessed otherwise.

“The Committee has made a range of recommendations regarding court support, including Legal Aid and Family Courts, underpinned by our recommendation that each jurisdiction enact legislation prohibiting the performance or procurement of unauthorised sterilisation procedures. State and Territory legislation should also make it an offence to take, attempt to take, or to knowingly assist a person to take, a child or an adult with a disability overseas for the purpose of obtaining a sterilisation procedure.

It is clear to the committee that this is a complex issue where the lines between therapeutic and non-therapeutic operations have been increasingly blurred and that there are a number of procedures taking place each year without adequate scrutiny.

“The committee has also recommended a range of measures to ensure that the sexual and reproductive health needs of people with a disability are discussed openly and planned for rather than ignored, including through the development of personal plans under the NDIS.

Committee member, Queensland Senator, Sue Boyce, said; “I am very pleased that the committee approached its inquiry from the perspective that people with a disability are entitled to seek loving relationships just like everyone else and to express their sexuality, just like everyone else.

“The implementation of education, training and community awareness about independent decision making and the right to bodily integrity should significantly improve life for people with a disability, especially with improved community understanding, awareness, and acceptance of the right of the disabled to their sexuality.”

Senator Sue Boyce said.The Committee has also extended its terms of references to include the impact of forced sterilisation on people who are born intersex. This component of the inquiry is still being undertaken, and the Committee’s report on intersex issues will be released in the near future. “

I encourage all MPs and people across the community to read this report and I look forward to the Government’s response,” Senator Siewert concluded.


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