Australian disability group submits report to UN calling for legislation against forced sterilisation

People With Disability Australia say disabled people are 'frequently subject to treatment that may constitute torture'

A disability group in Australia has submitted a report to the UN to highlight the “persistent and severe violence and abuse” enacted against disabled people in the country.

In the 54-page document to the Committee to the Convention against Torture, People With Disability Australia (PWDA) calls for a royal commission to “undertake a comprehensive public inquiry into the incidence, forms and circumstances of exploitation, violence and abuse of people with a disability”.

The report states that people with a disability in Australia are “frequently subject to treatment that may constitute torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (ill-treatment)”. These practices include forced or coerced non-therapeutic sterilisation and behaviour modification techniques.

The Australian Human Rights Commission says that sterilisation procedures are most often carried out on female children with intellectual disabilities.

According to the report, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are the only state governments to have enacted legislation that provides a “general prohibition on torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment”.

In response, PWDA is calling for Australia to “develop and enact national uniform legislation prohibiting, except where there is a serious threat to life or health, the use of sterilisation of children, regardless of whether they have a disability.”

The report also demands an end to “non-therapeutic genital and hormonal interventions on people with intersex variations without fully informed and free informed consent”.

In one case study outlined in the report, it is stated that in 2010 the Family Court of Australia gave permission for a hysterectomy to be performed on an 11-year-old girl with Rett syndrome. It is alleged that the Court “did not provide for independent human rights or advocacy advice or evidence on this matter”.

The submission has been endorsed by the First Peoples Disability Network, Queensland Advocacy Incorporated and People with Disability ACT (Australian Capital Territory).

The Convention against Torture holds its 53rd session between today and 28 November in Geneva.

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