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235 | February/March 2019 | Page updated 5 February 2019       

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Government calls for evidence on people who have Variations in Sex Characteristics

Last month the Government Equalities Office launched a call for evidence on the experiences of people who have variations in sex characteristics.

Variations in sex characteristics (VSC), sometimes referred to as ‘intersex’ or ‘differences in sex development’, is an umbrella term used to describe physical sex development which differs from what is generally expected of males or females. These variations are present from birth and may be chromosomal, gonadal, anatomical or hormonal.

Depending on the individual case, these differences may be visible at birth or untraceable until puberty, or even later in life. Research from clinical experts suggests the ‘number of people born with atypical genitalia may be as high as 1 in 300 births, but the birth prevalence of a condition that may lead to true genital ambiguity on expert examination may be as low as 1 in 5000 births.’

The call for evidence is designed for VSC individuals, their parents, carers, and legal guardians, and professionals and service providers to share their views and experiences on terminology (the terms people prefer using to describe having variations in sex characteristics), healthcare, education, support services, issues faced in day to day life and any other issues they have faced and want to raise

The Government Equalities Office has heard from people who had poor experiences when using the healthcare system 20-40 years ago. This included people who struggled to access their medical records and people who did not have access to a psychologist. Reflecting on their experiences, they reported that a psychologist could have helped them make informed decisions about the medical interventions they had undergone at the time.

Some young people have also had to take regular time off from school to attend medical appointments, are unable to fully participate in school activities and require psychosocial support to understand how and why their bodies develop differently to their peers.

Minister for Equalities Baroness Williams said:

“Everyone in this country has a right to an education, healthcare and to go about their daily life without intrusion or fear of humiliation. This call for evidence is a chance for us to learn more about people’s everyday lives, and I look forward to hearing more about their experiences.”

To find out more about the call for evidence and to submit a response visit




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21 March 2019

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