Transgender People in Sweden No Longer Face Forced Sterilization

On Thursday, a Swedish court repealed a law requiring transgender people to undergo sterilization.

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ERIK MARTENSSON / SCANPIX / REUTERS

Participants march at an annual gay pride parade in central Stockholm August 4, 2012.

Until late last week one of Europe’s most progressive nations had one of the continent’s most repressive policies on transgender people. Swedish law had required all transgender people to undergo sterilization if they want to legally change their sex. In a Dec. 19 decision, the Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeal overturned the law, declaring it unconstitutional.

Sweden’s 1970s-era statutes on sexual identity mandated that any person who legally wanted to change their sex must be sterile. Transgender Swedes had to go through gender reassignment surgery to have their legal documents updated, and to comply with the law, they were also sterilized, whether or not they wanted to be.

Liberal and moderate members of Sweden’s Parliament fought to repeal the law last year, but faced opposition from the conservative Christian Democrat party. The parties compromised by allowing transgender people to marry, which had been banned under the same law.

Despite Sweden’s other LGBT-friendly laws (Parliament legalized gay marriage in 2009 by a hefty majority) and calls to end the mandate from human rights groups, it has so far remained. That is, until an unidentified plaintiff who wanted to update his legal gender but refused to be sterilized took his case to the Swedish Board of Health.

Now, many of the estimated 500 people who have undergone forced sterilization since the law was passed are demanding compensation. Ulrika Westerlund, head of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, told Swedish website The Local that 200,000 kronor, or $31,000, would be a “fair sum” for damages.

“If lawmakers take the initiative to adopt a law outlining damages, we will not file a lawsuit,” she said.

Perfection of the Nordic race through sterilization isn’t new, and neither is granting compensation to those affected. In 1999, Sweden granted 175,000 kronor in damages to women who had been sterilized under an infamous eugenics program that lasted 40 years.

Sixteen European countries currently require transgender people to be sterilized before they undergo gender reassignment surgery, including France, Portugal and Italy. In Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal, the law is under review.

8 comments
Oishiimaru
Oishiimaru

What a backwards law for a forward-thinking country.

CorinnePatterson
CorinnePatterson

Not every person who wants to legally change their gender wants to undergo sex reassignment surgery... they may not want to have the procedure, might not be interested in the associated risks (especially if it could affect their sexual pleasure), could not conflate their genitalia with their gender, or may simply be happy the way they are.

This is great news!

TransLawCenter
TransLawCenter

Thank you for your reporting on this. For more, check out our blog where Maceo Persson, who has dual citizenship, shares his reaction.

gary47290
gary47290

This article is very short on clarity.  You have to be "sterilized" in the course of surgery for gender reassignment.  That's medical reality, not a requirement.

JoPaFa
JoPaFa

As a l-o-n-g time activist in the Movement, (45+ yrs) this is literally the first time I have ever 'heard' about this aspect of the Trans issues.  I just assumed that sterilization was an integral aspect of the sex change surgery, especially in terms of the men involved.  i even have a agree in Science (geology) but have a fairly deep knowledge of the biology et al.  Granted, while most of my L&G friends are not T, the ones i have connected with and dealt with throughout the decades never really talked about that issue and I never asked since I just assumed the 'cutting' and hormones made that a basic aspect of the sex changeover.  Thus, reading this is a real surprise.  learn something new everyday.  sure hopes it goes forth and stop any extra 'pain' for those who are making that basic and deep change in their lives.  Good luck for having this corrected as it should be.

ChrisEdgell
ChrisEdgell

And the trans community thanks you for putting this guy's picture on the article. Lol

pkfemelie
pkfemelie

@gary47290 One thing they didn't mention in the article is the fact that the law forbade transgender people to freeze eggs and sperm if they wanted to undergo SRS.

TransLawCenter
TransLawCenter

@gary47290 People were forced to be sterilized to legally change their sex. Legall - meaning on identification and such.